TRUCKERS were forced to endure an average of four days in long winding queues that stretched for more than 20km from Forbes Border Post to Vumba Road and around Nyakamete Industrial Area in Mutare with no social amenities like toilets and bath rooms following the temporary closure of the exit channel after a fatal accident that happened at the border on October 3.
Drivers resorted to open defecation in nearby bushes while they had to make do with the foodstuffs that were being sold by vendors as they had to remain in the queues that were moving at a snail’s pace.
Clearing agents also recorded loss of revenue due to the long turn-around of trucks as they spent days in the queues.
Congestion also became the order of the day from Paulington Post Office to Sakubva Swimming Pool along the ever busy Mutare-Chimanimani Highway.
The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) said they are working with other State agencies to clear the vehicles and trucks at the border.
As of yesterday, the queues were much shorter than they were early this week.
While most truck companies and their drivers have been counting their losses, it is brisk business for most commercial sex workers as a ready market was at their doorstep.
Most of them can be seen milling around the trucks, especially at night.
Interviewed truck drivers said the situation at the border post was unbearable as they were forced to wait for days before being cleared to cross into Mozambique.
Mr Kimpton Marufu (41) who was in the queue for three days said the delays affected his company’s delivery schedules and income.
He also said the situation endangered truck drivers’ lives as they had to sleep in their trucks with no access to basic amenities.
“This situation needs urgent attention. We were not sleeping as we were forced to guard the goods we are transporting. I am delivering coal from the Democratic Republic of Congo to Beira. If it is stolen, I will be liable for the loss, something I cannot afford. I had to sacrifice my sleep to guard the goods,” he said.
Mr Marufu also said the delays had resulted in the expiry of some drivers’ in-transit travelling permits, adding that their companies deployed agents to renew them, resulting in additional costs.
He said while he previously needed seven to eight days to travel from DRC to Beira, he has been taking between 15 and 25 days since August due to the delays at the border posts.
“Today is my 19th day on the road as I also encountered similar challenges at Kasumbalesa Border Post in DRC.
“Another challenge is the expiration of the permit for the goods that I am transporting. An agent had to come and renew it because I cannot go anywhere without these documents.
“However, some companies will not entertain that and their drivers will have to meet these extra costs,” said Mr Marufu.
“We were using the bush to relieve ourselves and human waste is now everywhere on the side of the road because a driver would just get out of his truck and relieve himself there as he could not look for a toilet and risk losing his goods.
“We also ran out of drinking water and we were buying expensive water from vendors who were capitalising on our plight,” he said.
Another truck driver, Mr Fungai Sande who plies the Zambia-Mozambique route said some drivers ended up engaging the services of commercial sex workers since they have been away from their families for a long time.
“Some of us ended up engaging the services of sex workers, thereby endangering our health and security because some of these ladies can team up with robbers. Our wives know that this is part of our occupational hazards,” he claimed.
Mr Sande called for the streamlining of clearing procedures to reduce the delays.
Interviewed local motorists expressed frustration over the situation, saying Government should intervene to bring sanity at Forbes Border Post.
Mr Tawanda Mutamangira of Zimunya said the Mutare-Chimanimani Highway is now a death trap due to the trucks.
“We are risking our lives every time we use this road. The trucks are blocking our view and sometimes they move unexpectedly. We urge the authorities to intervene and clear the congestion,” said Mr Mutamangira
Ms Pollina Matipasa of Sakubva expressed concern over the safety of children crossing the road, amid the chaos caused by the haulage trucks’ queue.
She said commuter omnibus and pirate taxi drivers have become more reckless as they try to manoeuvre in the traffic jungle.
“It is now very dangerous for our children to walk to school or to the shops. They have to dodge the speeding kombis and the trucks are blocking the road. We are living in fear of accidents every day,” said Ms Matipasa.
Zimra’s corporate affairs executive, Mr Gladman Njanji said: “The long queues stemmed from an accident at the Forbes border Post on October 3.
“The accident involved four trucks, leading to the temporary closure of the exit channel and the sharing of the entry channel for all traffic, resulting in a traffic build up.
“The lane has since been cleared, and from October 5 to 7, an average of 360 outbound trucks were cleared per day. On October 8 and 9, 592 and 656 outgoing trucks were cleared respectively.”
He said the operating hours at Forbes Border Post have been extended to stretch from 6am to 10pm.
“Commercial traffic accumulates overnight and during the day, leading to queues building up each morning. This means that the entry point has to deal with long queues as soon as it opens.
“Other reasons that might contribute to the increase in traffic at Forbes Border Post include the refurbished road network from Harare to Mutare and then to Beira. This is enticing transporters to use the Forbes route, thereby creating congestion,” said Mr Njanji.
He added: “The Port of Beira is nearer when compared to the Durban Port, which means there are less transport costs and turn-around times for transporters.
“This has resulted in a surge in traffic at Forbes. The Beira Port has also increased its capacity and has become a preferred port for Africa’s imports and exports to the Far East.
“The other thing contributing to the huge traffic volume is the increase in fuel tankers, both Zimbabwean and foreign, exiting to Beira to get fuel for onward transportation to countries in the north. Some transporters have significantly increased their fleet size due to increased demands and business contracts.
“The region’s sudden boom in the mining industry could also be leading to increased exports of various minerals through Forbes Border Post. The Beira Corridor is a critical feeder into and out of the North South Corridor and the shift preferences have led to an increase in its use.
“However, the current border post infrastructure was not designed to handle high volumes of commercial traffic as there is hardly any parking space for commercial trucks.
“This has overstretched the capacity for the handling of the commercial traffic influx. Its location is within constricted terrain which requires significant civil engineering for expansion,” said Mr Njanji.
Zimra also called on clearing agents, importers, exporters and transporters to take full advantage of the pre-clearance facility in order to shorten the waiting time within the border.
Mr Njanji said Zimra is confident that traffic will return to normal levels by no later than October 15, while other long term measures are being considered to increase the border post’s traffic capacity to handle the current dynamics.
A representative of clearing agents, Mrs Priscilla Murewanhema said the congestion affected their business.
“The congestion had a telling effect on our operations as this affected the turn-around of most trucks. This resulted in us clearing less trucks.
“While the increase in the volume of traffic is good for our business, there is need to expand the border to reduce congestion. Construction of the proposed dry port near Grand Reef should be speeded up as this will also help in reducing accidents at the border,” said Mrs Murewanhema. – Manica Post