Covid case confirmations, road blocks, cargo-seal shortages, power outages and related issues compromising effective road freight sum up the challenges transporters are facing across the Southern African Development Community (SADC).
This morning the port manager from the Groblersbrug border post in Limpopo, AC Motebele, confirmed that the port of entry into Botswana had been closed after a police officer had tested positive for the coronavirus.
It was the third such case in as many days reported on South Africa’s side of three land borders into two neighbouring countries, and the second that affects freight in Botswana.
Prior to the Groblersbrug confirmation, updates were still due about the situation at the Skilpadshek border post west of Zeerust, South Africa’s busiest crossing into Botswana and the most direct access way towards the Trans-Kalahari Corridor.
Yesterday it was reported that the border had been closed after an SA Revenue Service (Sars) official tested positive for the virus, the second such incident in as many days.
A source said the border would be temporarily closed until further notice.
“Only trucks currently inside the port and those in no-man’s land will be processed.”
There was no certainty about how long decontamination procedures would take.
The day before this morning’s Groblersbrug case, Sars at Beitbridge shut shop after one of its officials tested positive.
Although facilities had been deep-cleaned and cleared by yesterday afternoon, a clearing agent told the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) that Sars staff had only returned to work this morning.
Further afield the regular problem of electronic seals has intermittently raised its head in random locations.
When not unavailable they often run out of charge and can’t be charged because of power issues – a regular problem especially in Zimbabwe.
On the North-South Corridor (NSC) trucks back-hauling out of the Democratic Republic of the Congo had to wait for trucks going north to bring seals because the DRC’s customs facilities at Kasumbalesa, a notoriously troubled crossing, had run out of seals.
Fesarta chief executive Mike Fitzmaurice said he couldn’t understand how this could be.
“I spoke to Comesa (Common Market for East and Southern Africa) and they told me that they had 13 000 seals. So it’s hard to understand how there can’t be enough seals.”
Then, still at Kasumbulesa and going further north west towards Lubumbashi in the DRC’s copper-mining heartland, unrest erupted with thousands of people joining mobs moving down main streets, eventually dispersed by gunfire.
This morning an industry insider told Fesarta that the Forbes crossing east of Mutare in Zimbabwe going into Mozambique had run out of seals.
“There are no seals so Zimra (Zimbabwe Revenue Authority) is not releasing vehicles. All parking is now full and impeding vehicles crossing from Mozambique.”
Further north west, where the Beira Corridor from Forbes feeds into the NSC, the Chirundu border had no power so the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) cannot process documents.
The same source, a bulk tank operator in the Copper Belt, said parking on the Zambia side was full so the queue would be getting longer on the Zim side.
Compounding freight problems through Zambia, he said, were the number of road blocks.
“Between Chirundu and Lusaka (145km) there are at least five permanent road blocks and always a queue of vehicles parked on the side of the road.
“ZP (Zambia Police) have also reverted to hand-held speed cameras in the escarpments, through the towns, and near toll gates. They target areas on the open roads where speed limits drop to 40 and 60km an hour and the fine for speeding is ZMW 300 (kwacha) irrespective – and there is no leeway given.
“Through Lusaka you can get speed traps mere kilos between each other.”
Back in South Africa, following consecutive days of arson attacks on trucks as unrest against foreign nationals working in the country’s road freight sector gathered pace, things were eerily quiet.
At Marionhill Plaza on the N3 north of Durban, traffic was backing up in both directions with travellers and transporters on the port-side leg of the NSC warned to expect delays.
And on the N14 through the Northern Cape, usually a quiet stretch of road, Fesarta posted that service delivery protests in the Kuruman area had disrupted traffic in both directions, west towards Kathu and east towards Vryburg.
Source: Southern Africa’s Freight News by FTW