Freighters fret over Kazungula

NDAMU SANDU

The effective operation of the Kazungula Bridge One-Stop Border Post (OSBP) is threatening Zimbabwe’s freight industry due to reduced volumes of cargo handled, an executive has said, imploring Zimbabwe to speed up processes at Beitbridge and Chirundu Border Posts.

The Kazungula OSBP begins operations on Monday. The Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) will on the same date relocate all customs clearance operations to OSBP from the Livingstone Port Office.

“The general view is that the bridge will definitely be a game changer and there is fear of loss of business,” said Joseph Musariri, Shipping & Forwarding Agents’ Association of Zimbabwe CEO.

Musariri said Zimbabwe relies a lot on the Durban route to the north in two main ways: Zimbabwean cargo and DRC, Zambian and Malawian cargo. In case of DRC, Zambian and Malawian cargo, the main course is the short route via Beitbridge.

For DRC and other Zambian cargo that would otherwise use the Botswana route, the use of a ferry to cross the Zambezi from Botswana into Zambia was not convenient, hence passage via Beitbridge, Musariri said.

“Now that there will be a bridge to replace the ferry that type of cargo would rather go via the bridge. To this extent there may be a reduction of cargo passing through Beitbridge.  The border post from South Africa into Botswana may be overwhelmed and cause delays (if not attended to appropriately) and cargo diverted back to Beitbridge,” he said.

“Effective operation of the bridge may affect the Zimbabwe freight industry in that volumes of cargo handled become reduced.”

He said reduction of business for the freight industry will have both economic and social negative impact. 

“Freight forwarders and truckers would lose revenue and other downstream businesses such as shops and caterers,” Musariri said, adding “there would be loss of employment and reduction of social security through reduced contributions to the National Social Security Authority.”

He said it was not all gloom and doom as there are other measures Zimbabwe can take to rescue the situation. 

The measures include improving efficiencies at Beitbridge and Chirundu border posts in order to reduce border crossing delays. Musariri called for the removal of inland non-tariff barriers (bottlenecks) such as bribery cases.

 The Kazungula OSBP begins operations when the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) recently announced of construction works at Beitbridge Border Post which would impact on traffic handling. 

It said the situation was projected to last for the next six weeks during which period construction work will be at its peak.

“While the Authority continues to do its best in expediting the movement of the cargo through the border post, the limitations resulting from the ongoing construction work will naturally have a negative impact on the smooth movement of the traffic,” Zimra said last week.

Musariri said the reconstruction of Beitbridge was a ‘necessary evil’ with long term benefits.

“I do not see this having a big negative impact on business because of the Covid-19 restrictions that are currently operational in Botswana. Beitbridge may still be the preferred crossing place,” he said.

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