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Border reopening poser for Mnangagwa

by Staff reporter
01 Nov 2020 at 18:17hrs | Views
On Tuesday, Cabinet announced the phased reopening of land borders, starting with the country's main ports of entry - Beitbridge, Plumtree, Victoria Falls, Chirundu, Nyamapanda and Forbes.

However, only private passenger vehicles and pedestrian traffic will be the first to be granted passage from December 1.

Further assessments for handling public passenger transport would be undertaken.

Authorities really have their work cut out.

Extensive preparatory work is needed at Beitbridge Border Post - the country's busiest port of entry, and a gateway from South Africa into the continent - if it is to reopen successfully.

There is need to set up automated thermometers and sanitisers, introduce wheel and foot baths, establish  a testing and screening facility, as well as provide adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) for frontline workers.

During a recent tour of the border post, Health and Child Care Deputy Minister Dr John Mangwiro acknowledged that a lot of work needs to be done before it is given the all-clear to reopen.

"We need to have more working machines and gadgets to increase supplies in terms of testing consumables. What we are hearing here is that when the border is fully operational they may clear over 15 000 people daily. So we need to really up our game this side by availing lots of manpower and the machines," he said.

Currently, less than 1 000 people are passing through the border daily.

Health authorities believe that the current scenario where samples are taken to Gwanda and Bulawayo for further testing was untenable.

"Trucks are congesting roads on both sides of the border. This calls for us to improve on border management and efficiency issues through the provision of adequate tools," observed Dr Mangwiro.

Government, he added, will upgrade testing and screening of returnees at Beitbridge's isolation and quarantine centre.

Assistant regional immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube, said it was critical for the Border Efficiency Management System to have a well-coordinated traffic management system.

An area to set up facilities to expand screening and testing has already been identified.

"We have identified a place which will ensure that we don't have static vehicular traffic on the New Limpopo Bridge. There is also need to have a well-coordinated traffic management system, and the time to act is now, considering we have been having issues with the movement of commercial cargo during the lockdown."

Beitbridge, he said, requires five lanes on the arrivals section and two lanes on the exit side to minimise congestion.

Also required are more walking booths that are independent of the main immigration hall.

"Though we are making efforts on the ground, we stand guided by the operational orders from our respective principals in line with the current Cabinet resolution," said Mr Ncube.

It is also believed that there is need for particularity in defining the vehicles that will be allowed passage.

"We also need to be alive to the fact that the bus operators may drop people just outside the borders on either side," said an official who refused to be identified as he is not authorised to speak to the Press.

There are fears the reopening will put pressure on the human resources and border infrastructure due to ongoing upgrades at the border.

Currently, there are a lot of commercial trucks which are yet to be cleared as most clearing agencies and ancillary Government departments are not operating around the clock.

The Sunday Mail understands that some delays on commercial cargo are due to a mobile cargo scanner that has been down since July.

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA) is also relying on physical examination (PE) of goods to curb leakages, which inherently also results in delays.

The situation is likely to get worse when human and vehicular traffic increases.

There have been proposals to open the Alfred Beitbridge Road Bridge, which links Musina in South Africa and Beitbridge.

The bridge is presently used for pedestrians only as there are pending structural inspections to ascertain its suitability to carry vehicles.

Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chief executive officer Mr Joseph Musariri said some agents do not work round the clock for various reasons.

"The main one is lack of capacity (especially manpower). Some small agents have limited numbers of staff and are financially incapacitated to operate for 24 hours. However, bigger companies can afford shift work," he said.

Transporter representatives (runners), he added, sometimes unnecessarily hold on to the documents and cause release delays.

"Usually north-bound trucks do not cross into Zimbabwe before documents have been processed and a notification for the truck to cross over is issued.

"Some trucks wait in the Zimra yard waiting for other payments such as EMA (Environmental Management Agency) and other Government agencies' payments.

"These are normally done directly by the transporter," said Mr Musariri.

Source - sundaymail