A humanitarian crisis is said to be developing in Zambia’s Copperbelt Province as truck traffic heading north into the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) has slowed to a trickle with drivers expected to wait for days on end to get through the border post of Kasumbalesa.
It’s a notoriously congested crossing for supply chain concerns transporting industrial and essential cargo like fuel and acid to the DRC’s copper mines situated between Lubumbashi and Kolwezi, and the queue south of Kasumbalesa regularly stretches through towns like Chililabombwe and Chingola on the T3 highway.
But after Zambia started implementing coronavirus (Covid-19) containment and quarantine measures, and with inflexible DRC Customs regimes on the border itself, the congestion experienced on the north-south line in and out of those countries has reached unprecedented proportions.
On Sunday FTW Online received information that the queue was stretching all the way to Kitwe, halfway between Chingola and Ndola, the Copperbelt Province’s capital.
Mike Fitzmaurice, CEO of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta), got in touch with FTW asking that urgent attention be drawn to the plight of drivers, some of them stuck in their trucks more than 90 kilometres south of the border.
“It’s inhumane,” he said.
“There are no facilities for them. No toilets, no food, no fresh water and they’re not allowed to stop in any of the towns they are passing through.”
When they are given the green light to proceed, they are escorted through built-up areas by police.
Fitzmaurice added that Zambian authorities were stopping trucks before they passed through towns like Kitwe, Chingola and Chililabombwe, waiting for traffic to clear on the northern side of the towns before allowing more trucks through.
With tension mounting and discontent among drivers building, reports have been received of drivers blocking other traffic from proceeding towards Kasumbalesa.
“Some drivers feel it’s not fair that some traffic can go through while they have to wait. Something needs to be done before things get violent.”
Fitzmaurice’s sentiments are reflected in messages shared on the Whatsapp group of Transist, the transit assistance bureau managed by Fesarta.