Thursday, 24 December 2020

FOUR TRUCK DRIVERS DIE AT BEITBRIDGE BORDER


Road Freight Association (RFA) chief executive officer Gavin Kelly says that at least four truck drivers have died while waiting to cross the Beitbridge border post.

“We already have confirmed reports of at least four drivers who died in their cabs. It’s absolutely unacceptable for people to be treated this way. This is a humanitarian crisis. People have to sit in their vehicles to get to the border. They don’t want to lose their spot in the queue,” said Kelly.

Trucks and other vehicles have been stuck in queues reaching 20km and truck drivers are taking up to nine days to cross the border, with no facilities and amenities to accommodate people.

According to Kelly,  the delays have cost over R700 million to date.

“The freight situation at Beitbridge is desperate. This is the worst congestion in the history of Beitbridge ever. Queues stretch out from the border to Musina on the South Africa side and on the Zimbabwe side, as well as along Beitbridge Harare highway and the Bulawayo road.

“All the truck parks are full. Trucks are in every street and all over in the surrounding towns. Although congestion at Beitbridge has been a challenge for some time, the Covid-19 checks and curfews have severely exacerbated this. With proper planning, this nightmare could have been avoided,” said Kelly.

The RFA has called on President Cyril Ramaphosa to rectify the crisis.

Kelly said allegations that truck drivers did not have correct documentation were false, arguing that transporters were pre-cleared by the South African Revenue Service (Sars) before reaching the border post.

“If they are not pre-cleared, they go into a separate queue.” In an interview, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said the drivers themselves caused the congestion by not following procedures.

He said: “We had operating procedures that truck drivers must follow. When they leave must they must not go straight to the border. There are several holding places where they must park and start doing administration. When the papers are all cleared, they drive to the border where they just pass through and the procedure there is very short. When they don’t comply and just go to the road then it causes congestion.”

According to Motsoaledi, the problem has been resolved. The RFA said drivers who were stuck at Beitbridge had to continuously walk up and down the queue ensuring their load was still in tact as they were exposed to risks.

“Exhaustion is a reality and this impacts on their ability to function effectively and drive safely. They are not able to perform at their best and therefore safety is compromised. This is a serious concern,” said Kelly.

Kelly further alleged that some drivers had to bribe officers in an attempt to jump the queue.

“The more you pay, the better your chance to get clear to the front. Those who stand innocently in the queue waiting for their rightful turn, stand for weeks at the same position. This dire situation cannot continue – it is impacting on the lives of our drivers, the surrounding areas, consumers and business.” Citizen

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