Tight enforcement of the Zimbabwean and South African curfews has been delaying cargo traffic at Beitbridge, with freight forwarders prevented from moving trucks across the border during curfew hours, although they were allowed to do this in the past.
Zimbabwe has a curfew at present between 6pm and 6am, while South Africa’s is between 11pm and 4am.
As a result, the lack of coordination and tightening of regulations in Zimbabwe has seen commercial trucks piling up on the South African side waiting for the longer curfew to end.
In addition, the freight forwarders who process documents for commercial goods in land and at the borders are now closing shop between 3pm and 6pm to observe lockdown regulations.
An estimated 40 000 commercial trucks are handled at Beitbridge border post monthly. Some will be in transit to Malawi, Tanzania, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Zambia, Angola and Mozambique.
According to several freight forwarders, they resorted to close shop early to avoid continued confrontation with security agencies at the border, who often arrest them or deny them access to the border after 6pm.
“In the previous lockdowns, we didn’t encounter any problem because the border was operating for 24 hours,” said a freight forwarder who preferred anonymity.
“Now, our workers are having challenges due to tight security controls on the ground. This is now affecting the movement of cargo especially after 6pm.”
The Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer, Mr Joseph Musariri, said their members were complying with the law by closing within set times.
“We have had engagements with authorities over the challenges our members are having inland and the ports of entry, but there is no meaningful change and hence the agents are now closing their offices early,” he said.
“This is unfortunate, but the clearing agents are correct in knocking off early as per the law. People are worried of being arrested while doing their job of facilitating regional and international trade. They no longer trust verbal assurances.”
Although he was not available for comment yesterday, national police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said recently the customs agents should engage their line ministry to get clarity on their status.
“We are appealing to South Africa and Zimbabwe to harmonise the curfew times at the border to avoid these delays,” said a truck driver identified as Mr Moyo.
“We are spending longer than necessary to get passage after 6pm.
This is not good considering that we should minimise crowding at all cost.”