Long-distance truck drivers heading towards the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) are finding themselves in a desperate situation, stuck in their trucks for days while criminals come out at night to rob them on Zambia’s T3 highway.
The agonising wait to get through the border at Kasumbalesa was made worse recently when Zambia decided to upgrade a road from Ndola to an alternative crossing into the DRC south of Sakania.
It means that truckers heading north are now turned away at Ndola and are once more forced to join a queue towards Kasumbalesa.
Today that line of queueing trucks, from footage seen this morning, is stretching well beyond the town of Chambishi about 70 kilometres south-east of Kasumbalesa.
This morning one of the drivers turned away at Ndola woke up to find that during the night his truck had been tampered with, its petrol cap forced open and the diesel syphoned out of the tank.
He said there was nothing they could do about it. They have to sleep in the cabs at night and are too scared to come out when they hear things outside.
He said he hoped that Juba Transport, the company in Lusaka he drives for, won’t blame him for what happened.
The footage shared by the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations, clearly shows the long line of trucks stretching end to end, with nothing in sight except cars speeding past.
The lack of facilities means that the drivers simply have to sit it out while the governments of Zambia and DRC say one thing and do another, the humanitarian plight of the drivers probably being the last thing on their minds.
The driver said the trip of less than 160 kilometres from Ndola to Kasumbalesa could take about three days, about the same time the drive would take for a bulk liquid haulier tanking up fuel from Sasolburg in South Africa more than 2 000 kilometres away.
Although it was high time for Zambia to do something about the poorly maintained stretch of road from Ndola to the border south of Sakania, the crossing still played a major role in diverting north-bound traffic away from Kasumbalesa.
With the latter now once again being the only way into the DRC from Zambia’s Copperbelt Province, congestion south of Kasumbalesa is back to where it was weeks ago.
Although transporters don’t expect miracles overnight, the general consensus is that allowing transporters with pre-cleared cargo to bypass the queue and receive green-light access at the border would be one way to alleviate the congestion.
Unfortunately, it’s not happening.
The profit from truck parking and related border facilitation services charged to drivers languishing at Kasumbalesa while customs personnel stand by idly, seems simply too good to lose for the sake of trade facilitation.
* Freight News has approached Amnesty International with a request to assist drivers sitting in the queue towards Kasumbalesa.