Truck traffic building up south of Beitbridge is getting worse, with the processing rate for north-bound cargo drastically decreasing and the queue south of the border growing longer.
According to Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta), in some instances they’re only processing about 13 trucks an hour.
He added that on average only 20 trucks were being cleared to enter Zimbabwe while the arrival rate for trucks heading north was about 1000 trucks a day, creating an intolerable situation for transporters and easy pickings for corrupt police officers and traffic officials extracting bribes.
“Pulling a truck out of the queue and escorting it to the front of the line,” Fitzmaurice said, “could net R500 to R1000 in pocket money.”
And although law enforcement officers and officials from the Road Transport Management System (RTMS) and Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA) have been told about the extortion, nothing has happened.
“We can only imagine that it’s still going on,” Fitzmaurice complained.
In the meantime Gateway Truck Stop, the largest such parking facility before you get to the border, where about 300 trucks can be accommodated, is filled to capacity.
The truck queue has also reached Musina, where last week it was still north of the town at the China Mall, a popular trader’s spot on the way to the border.
Zimbabwe’s Covid-combatting 6pm-6am curfew, which came into effect last week, had an immediate effect on north-bound traffic - and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) gave its assurance that it would work towards speeding up processing which then had slowed to around 30 trucks and hour.
“We can understand that in addition to the curfew they’re also clamping down on smuggling at the moment, so they’re doing a lot more inspections than they should be doing. Also, because of the curfew, the Document Processing Centre (DPC) is only open 12 hours a day – slashing administrative efficiencies at a 24-hour border by half.”
Zimra has told Fesarta that it’s doing what it can to speed things up but it still has to abide by the government’s decree - and until the DPC reopens 24/7 and inspections are eased, transporters heading towards Beitbridge are warned to expect the worst.