ZIMBORDERS, a locally-owned company, has been awarded a US$100 million contract to rehabilitate the Beitbridge Border Post within 100 days, as President Emmerson Mnangagwa’s government targets to improve efficiency at the country’s busiest port of entry.
The project was caught up in the massive Zanu PF factional fights during former president Robert Mugabe’s era with Mnangagwa’s faction and the G40 faction which had coalesced around former first lady Grace Mugabe having vested interests.
While the Mnangagwa faction preferred Zimborders to carry out the project, the G40 faction preferred a South African company linked to controversial businessman Nikko Shefer. However, senior government officials told Zimbabwe Independent that Transport minister Joram Gumbo in December directed Zimborders to commence the project and complete it within 100 days.
“The Beitbridge rehabilitation will be done because Zimborders has been notified to commence operations,” a government official said.
“Zimborders won the tender in 2016 but cabinet then stopped the company from proceeding with its project.”
During his 2018 budget presentation, Finance minister Patrick Chinamasa said the Beitbridge Border Post will be re-ordered.
“Government acknowledges the need to ease entry and exit of tourists and travellers, improve trade facilitation and revenue collection efficiency at Beitbridge Port of Entry,” Chinamasa said.
“In the longer term, this will also require large investment in new infrastructure facilities at the port of entry. In the interim, government has been working with the African Development Bank to improve exit and entry efficiencies using the existing facilities.
“In this regard, the border post expert subsequently engaged, with the assistance of funding from the African Development Bank, has since concluded the final report to this effect.”
Chinamasa also said government was implementing short-term measures, which include “full rollout of the Electronic Cargo Tracking System, connection of electronic manifest control system to the ASYCUDA World Server, harmonisation of Container Depot operations to 24 hours in line with the border post’s operating hours, connection of mobile scanners to ASYCUDA World Server in order to enable real time entry and timely acquittal of goods.”
According to Chinamasa, government will also prioritise the relocation of passenger buses carrying commercial cargo to a transit shed for purposes of clearance.
“This assists to provide convenience to travellers with nothing to declare, implementation of the e-customs initiative for the advance clearance and online payment of relevant charges for tourist motor vehicles.”
In 2015, Chinamasa said Zimbabwe needed US$100 million for construction and repair of the border to enable it to meet international standards.
Transport Ministry officials told the Independent the rehabilitation work will also include the construction of a new bridge, rehabilitation of the weighbridge and upgrading of communication and security systems. The project also includes the upgrading of the road network to and from the bridge, installing gate control infrastructure and erecting a perimeter fence around the post. Other facilities to be upgraded include the parking areas, commercial centre and staff accommodation.
The border post will also be computerised and have its lighting systems upgraded. Systems which will enable the implementation of measures to strengthen collaboration between the South African Revenue Service and the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) through the harmonisation of customs systems and procedures at the border post, will also be installed at the border.
Beitbridge Border Post is one of the busiest inland ports in sub-Saharan Africa and links the northern and southern corridors with a record 500 vehicles and 10 000 travellers passing through the port daily.
However, the port lacks soft and hard infrastructure that includes information technology and inspection bays, among others, to deal with high volumes of traffic have resulted in a lot of inconvenience to travellers.
Travellers spend between six and 18 hours at the port of entry to complete immigration and customs formalities.
The clearance of commercial traffic can take up to three days. The border is one of the most porous in the entire region, something which has made Zimbabwe’s counterpart in South Africa uneasy.