Thupeyo Muleya — COMMERCIAL traffic going into South Africa and Zimbabwe through the Beitbridge border post was yesterday delayed by more than four hours after truck drivers staged a sit-in at the New Limpopo Bridge demanding that they be efficiently cleared for passage.
The disgruntled truck drivers gathered at the bridge around midday, complaining that they were spending longer than necessary to pass through the border post, with the majority of complaints dealing with unharmonised checks on the Zimbabwe side.
The movement system improved around 4pm when South African and Zimbabwean security officials took control.
At the height of the protest, the drivers parked a commercial truck blocking Zimbabwe-bound traffic on South Africa's side of the bridge.
As a result, double queues had formed on highways leading to the border in both countries.
By the end of the day, the commercial trucks had started moving into either side of the border in small batches.
In separate interviews, the drivers blamed Zimbabwean customs officials for taking a business as usual approach.
"I have been on the South African side for the past four days," said Mr Charles Gumbo. "When I left Johannesburg, the export customs documents had already been processed, but now I have to spend days in a queue to access Zimbabwe.
"When I entered the South African border, I noted there were very few trucks and indications are that our fellow countrymen are slow in processing customs documents."
Mr Gumbo said the delays had been worsened by too many checks being conducted on the Zimbabwean border.
He said Zimbabwe should consider synchronizing operations like what is happening in South Africa.
"Imagine, I have to go through many checkpoints in Zimbabwe, yet in South Africa, everything is done at customs," he said. "We need to put our house in order, the too many checkpoints are unnecessary."
Mr Innoncent Moyo said the traffic flow system in Zimbabwe was slow, adding that the main bottleneck was poor harmonisation of operations.
He said it was important for Zimbabwe to minimise its checkpoint which at times had become frustrating.
"We can't stand these delays, some of us are being mugged while in queues on the South African border and we have many challenges like access to water and ablution facilities," said Mr Moyo.
"Our hope is that things could get better with the new freight terminal opening, but then we are not seeing that commitment from our border officials to get things moving."
According to Mr Webster Nhau the slow movement of cargo had affected even those in transit through Zimbabwe.
He said the Government must seriously look at the Beitbridge situation where a potentially volatile situation was building up.
Mr Nhau said the status quo at the border was affecting most of his colleagues' remuneration.
"Most of us here earn money per load and if you spend a week in a queue you are likely to get less wages," he said. "This is not good at all. In addition, the government and its partners have put a lot of money upgrading the border, but if we fail to managed the traffic flow system, that money will go to waste."
Efforts to get a comment from the local Zimra officials were in vain yesterday.
An average of 1 200 commercial trucks pass through the Beitbridge border post daily.