For a couple of weeks now there have been reports, images and video clips showing long truck queues at the Beitbridge border post. Truck drivers have complained of delays with most of the blame being laid on the Zimbabwean authorities for causing these delays. Now South Africa has come out guns blazing and accused Zimbabwe of sabotaging regional trade by causing unnecessary delays.

They say several factors are causing these 10km queues through a number of acts:

  • First a company called Zimborders Consortium was granted a US$300 milloin contract to build terminal buildings for trucks and other vehicles at the border. This was done without going to tender and now the company is doing the construction in phases possibly holding up trucks and not delaying whatever benefits that could have come from quickly finishing the project.
  • The company then started demanding steep toll fees of up to US$344 depending on how big a truck is.

This has sparked anger as the tolls were introduced with little warning. South Africa, though its Home Affairs minister lashed out at this development saying there was no heads up. One day trucks were going through and the next day steep tolls were being demanded in addition to all the tolls trucks have to pay at tollgates.

The congestion is being caused by the continued construction on the Zimbabwean side. It looks like their construction has now reached a difficult point without them making any arrangements for parking space, so they don’t allow lots of trucks from South Africa on their side because they have got no parking space where they will process their trucks.

The second thing which has been there for a long time, but becomes worse during the end of the year when lots of people pass, is the absence of the registry clearance on the Zimbabwean side. You know it’s also exacerbated by the unavailability of clearing agents at night. On the South African side, they clear upstream and only require agents and it’s not happening on the Zimbabwean side.

Thirdly, Zimbabwe has introduced a toll fee of US$201 for small trucks and US$344 for abnormal trucks and they demand this money in cash which means some truck drivers have to park their trucks. We have been negotiating with the Zimbabweans that even if we can’t stop them from levying that, at least they must accept electronic payments and up to October 17 they were still taking cash and we hope things will improve because we have spoken to them.

The situation makes a mockery of the African Union free trade agreement (African Continental Free Trade Area). I’m sure you are aware the African Union signed this Africa free trade agreement with a lot of gusto and it was publicised all over. You know that Beitbridge is the gateway between South Africa and the rest of the continent.

It’s a mockery that a country can make unilateral measures without even warning us. It’s extremely frustrating and it’s killing business between South Africa and the rest of the continent.

One was hoping that Zimbabwe will be aware of the implications of the African agreement and what it means, but unfortunately it looks like it’s not so with our neighbours.

Aaron Motsoaledi South African Minister of Home Affairs

It seems like the Zimborders may not have enough money to complete the project and decided to only do a small part and was hoping to raise the rest of the money through their steep toll gate fees. This has irked truck drivers. South Africa and the rest of the region. Many people fear this will induce SADC countries to use the Kazungula Bridge more and result in Zimbabwe permanently losing its status as the gateway to the rest of Africa.