As people wait to cross the border to and from South Africa at the Beitbridge border post, the congestion has reportedly been costing R88 million per week in revenue this December.
Trucks and private cars have been queuing at the Beitbridge border post for days, sparking calls – from the Democratic Alliance (DA) and Home Affairs portfolio committee chairperson advocate Bongani Bongo – for government to deal with congestion.
Federation Eastern and Southern Africa Road Transport Associations (FERSATA) chief executive officer (CEO) Mike Fitzmaurice highlighted that the congestion was costing the country millions in rands.
Fitzmaurice said organisations have called for an urgent intervention – in an open letter to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize – outlining the grave conditions, but have not received a response to date.
“The congestion, aggravated by the annual increase in traffic at this time of the year, has already cost South Africa lost revenue.
“During the first three weeks of December, the cost of delays at Beitbridge was almost R88 million per week. Queue time delays for trucks amounted to R609 million per week, amounting to R2 092 860 000 to date,” Fitzmaurice said.
Drivers in the queues reportedly have run out of food, have no water for drinking or washing and there were no toilet facilities.
They have also reportedly been robbed of their cellphones and clothes while waiting to be screened because the police were only visible during the day.
Some traffic officials were allegedly accepting bribes of R1,000 from drivers who jump the queue, according to Fitzmaurice.
Meanwhile, South Africa Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) chairperson Dr Juanita Maree noted that the losses due to the congestion was adding to the R442 million already lost during the 27 day-blockage to northbound traffic that took place in November.
Maree said she believes that the way to decongest the border was to suspend Covid-19 testing for drivers and close the boarder at night for travellers and bus traffic.
“The southbound trucks with no loads should then be moved across in batches alternating with loaded trucks. The northbound truck traffic can be pushed through at night.
“The situation is desperate as this disaster is having a severe impact on supply chains throughout Africa. Much-needed goods – including essential items – are simply not reaching their destination.
“There is no quick solution but if government is willing to partner with the private sector, we can restore the smooth flow of goods and people across the border preventing a humanitarian disaster and the economic collapse of the region,” she concludes.