Low cross border business frustrates SA public transporters

By Liz Dlodlo

South Africa’s public transport operators from Limpopo province, Friday, disrupted the flow of traffic through the Beitbridge border post for over four hours.

The group of mainly taxi owners said they had to engage in drastic action to register their discontent with the current low levels of business related to the limited movement of human traffic.

They arrived at the port of entry in a convoy of minibuses and private taxis around 6 am which they parked along the N1 highway making the area inaccessible.

Witnesses said the gang was not happy with Zimbabwe’s delay in opening borders to ordinary people who form the bulk of their customers and day shoppers in Limpopo towns.

In previous years, around 13 000 would cross into both Zimbabwe and South Africa via Beitbridge per day.

Now the border is being used by only 1200 commercial truck drivers every day as per Harare’s lockdown regulations.

South Africa opened 20 of its borders to the public on 15 February.

However, neighbouring countries including Zimbabwe have remained cautious.

“Most of the demonstrators were vehicle owners who complained of low business due to limited cross-border activities. They are saying the current setup favours Zimbabwean operators with light commercial trucks, who have unlimited access to the border gate,” said a South African official.

“Some said they were not happy about our neighbours, Zimbabwe not opening up the borders, resulting in them making losses.”

South African Police Services (SAPS) spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo was not readily available to comment on the border issues.

According to one truck driver, Chamu, the protesters dispersed around 11 am and by then the border was now congested with commercial trucks going into Zimbabwe and South Africa.

“We encountered delays of over four hours to the border because of the demonstrations. Most drivers decided to stay away from the border for fear of vandalism of the vehicles or theft of some of the goods, in case there was going to be a riot,” said Chamu.

A provincial spokesperson for the Department of Transport and Community Safety, Matome Moremi said the traffic situation had returned to normalcy.

“The taxi operators have dispersed the situation is now back to normal,” said Moremi.

South Africa is one of the countries in Africa which has recorded the highest number of coronavirus infections and deaths of over 40 000.

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