KZN freight companies hit by Beitbridge delays
Durban - KWAZULU-Natal transporters say they are anxiously waiting for an end to interruptions that had set them back nearly a week at Beitbridge border post.
The busiest border post in southern Africa, which connects South Africa with Zimbabwe and is also a key access point for trade with other neighbouring countries, was re-opened to other traffic by the Home Affairs Department on Monday.
However, freight companies said the delays started last week, with some trucks waiting up to five days at the border to get across.
Businessman Chris Moodley of KZN Clearing said it was the longest wait his trucks had had at the border.
“I had a truck sitting in the queue since Thursday. It was 30km out of the post for days and only now is it in the queue. We have heard they are pulling the trucks off the N1, which is causing more of a problem with more congestion on the N1 towards Musina which is a no-go zone.”
Moodley said he had decided to wait until the situation improved before dispatching eight of his trucks.
“The problem is there are so many trucks in the queue (and) they could be carrying urgent cargo, fuel, medical supplies. It's not viable to send our trucks and drivers out there. It isn’t safe with the pandemic as they won’t have access to water or they could be robbed while in the queue,” he said.
Gavin Kelly, chief executive of the Road Freight Association, said he had heard that other countries had not opened their borders or had extended their lockdowns which had put pressure on freight transport.
“Everyone is talking about congestion and delays due to the borders not being able to deal with passenger traffic volumes as well as the freight volumes. All require health protocols to be observed.”
Kelly said there were trucks queued up due to the delays and this was not good for business. Covid-19 tests could also expire during the delays.
Another freight company manager, who did not want to be named, thought the “horrible delays” were due to Zimbabwe’s lockdown regulations, coupled with the Groblersbrug border crossing being flood damaged and traffic diverted to Beitbridge.
“It’s been horrible, it takes three to six days from the N1 tollgate, which is about 55km to get to the front of the Beitbridge crossing queue which would normally take drivers less than an hour!”
Matome Taueatsoala, Department of Transport and Community Safety spokesperson in Limpopo, said the province and other stakeholders, including Customs and Immigration, were “doing their level best” to deal with the situation at Beitbridge.
He attributed the setback to construction going on in Zimbabwe. “Where normally they would process almost 600 vehicles a day, right now they can only process fewer than 100 due to the construction at the border post in Zimbabwe.”
Taueatsoala said the province together with stakeholders had tried to alleviate the delays by removing all the trucks from the road.
“We tried to take them in batches and have created various truck parks for checking points before taking them in batches of 20 to be processed to go through the border,” he said.
In a visit to the Beitbridge border post, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Njabulo Nzuza said Zimbabwean customs officials were processing fewer than usual trucks which resulted in congestion on the South African side yesterday.
“They processed just above 400 trucks, while on the RSA side of the border we processed just above 600. We are in discussion with the Zimbabwean authorities for them to increase their capacity or alternatively they create a holding area on their side which will allow us to process trucks to their holding area, as such clearing our side of the border,” Nzuza said.