Issues plaguing the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe are slowly showing signs of abating.
The 10km queue of trucks that on Friday continued to wait to be let in to Zimbabwe will now be helped by a crisis team, which hopes to clear congestion within the next 24 hours, Bloomberg reported.
On Friday, fears remained that truck drivers would soon run out of food and water, and that those carrying hazardous cargo would either fall victim to crime, or risk damaging their goods.
But on Saturday morning, eNCA reported the queue had reduced drastically.
Drivers told the broadcaster that although the queue was moving, they had to endure significant challenges, with there being no bathroom facilities, and having to spend more money than they had budgeted for just to eat and keep hydrated.
The South African Human Rights Commission will be conducting an inspection at the border post on Saturday.
Upgrades conducted on the Zimbabwean side of the border post began earlier this year, with three new terminal buildings constructed as part of the first phase, at a cost of US$300 million. It was meant to be completed at the end of September.
Although delays were anticipated, some other factors Department of Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said truck drivers were not aware of have been sprung on them.
The Zimbabwean side of the border is now charging drivers US$200 per small truck, and US$340 for abnormal trucks.
These payments had to be made in cash, despite attempted negotiations with Zimbabwean authorities to allow drivers to pay electronically, Motsoaledi said in an interview with eNCA earlier this week.
He said this surprise fee forced drivers to park their trucks and search for ATMs or foreign exchange agencies to get the money.
In addition to voicing his frustrations with the situation, he said the situation at the Beitbridge border post “made a mockery” of the recent Free Trade Agreement signed by the African Union.
He said Beitbridge was key to that agreement, with it being “a gateway of trade between South Africa and the rest of the continent.”
He said it was uncalled for that in light of this, unilateral measures were introduced “without warning”.
Another measure drivers had to comply with as the border upgrades kick in was pre-clearance documentation.
Zimbabwe secretary in the ministry of information, publicity and broadcasting services, Nick Mangwana, said in state-owned publication The Herald that the crisis committee would also assist in helping the more than 60% of drivers said to have “inadequate documentation” to be cleared to cross the border into Zimbabwe.
Motsoaledi said a lack of parking facilities, as well as no night staff currently working at the border, added to the chaos.