Agony at Beitbridge border

THE place reeks of urine and long queues are the order of the day. Beggars are everywhere as if that is not enough, the ancient infrastructure gives the prohibiting feeling that it may just give in, with you under it.

Anyone who cares for a smoke, is at liberty to puff away, adding to the urine stench. Under-staffing has been normalised as security staff hustles everyone for bribes… a shabeen? No.
Welcome to Beitbridge Boarder Post, the country’s biggest border.

As the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) struggles to foot government’s enormous wage bill, the authority has conveniently ignored its biggest cash cow.

This year, Zimra has targeted to collect $4,1 billion revenue against expected expenditure of $4,115 billion and Zimra boss Gershem Pasi said the country needs urgent policy reforms to address the rapid de-industrialisation and the informalisation of the economy, adding that the agency “would have challenges in meeting targets.”

This reporter was at the border last week, and the question most travellers asked Pasi was: is the authority too broke to refurbish the border post?

“We have been standing here for five hours, surely Zimra could at least have the decency to construct proper toilets and at least get Innscor and the likes to come here, seriously, why don’t we have ATMs here?” one traveller, Tawanda Mangozho fumed.
Another traveller, Noreen Chinogara said Zimra had to sacrifice and take a leaf out of the South African government’s page.
“Just look at the SA side from here? Our border is a shame to the nation and the region, why hasn’t Zimra done something about this?” Chinogara said.

According to Finance minister, Patrick Chinamasa, government needs about $100 million to refurbish the Beitbridge Border Post to international standards.

The minister last year said the government was working towards engaging the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa) to fund the project.

“Beitbridge being the busiest entry point in southern Africa continues to be a major bottleneck to the smooth flow of traffic, both goods and people due to inadequate facilities.
“However, upgrading of the infrastructure at the border post is estimated to cost about $100 million,” Chinamasa said.
The redevelopment of Beitbridge will encompass the upgrading of the road network to and from the bridge, perimeter fencing and gate control infrastructure, parking areas, commercial centre and staff accommodation.

It will also include the weighbridge, upgrading the communication and security systems, lighting systems, computerisation of the border post and construction of a new bridge among others.
The project also includes the implementation of measures to strengthen the collaboration between the South African Revenue Service and Zimra through the harmonisation of customs systems and procedures at the border post.

“Our economy is currently facing enormous challenges including tight liquidity conditions, declining production levels, limited lines of credit, high cost of capital and rising formal unemployment,” said Chinamasa.

He said there was urgent need to refurbish and upgrade the country’s border posts, rail and road infrastructure to keep up with international standards.

Improving the Beitbridge Border Post between South Africa and Zimbabwe is one of seven priority projects identified under the regional North-South Corridor scheme, which aims to improve the logistics network from Durban to Dar es Salaam.
The programme is chaired by South Africa and comprises eight signatory countries — Botswana, Mozambique, the DRC, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania and South Africa.

South Africa’s Department of Trade and Industry’s deputy director of economic infrastructure and logistics, Ofentse Sibetlo, recently said of the programme’s 19 identified projects, seven would be priority or “catalytic” projects to substantially improve regional trade.

Limpopo Bridge’s administration was recently handed to the Zimbabwe government after expiry of the 20-year-long build, operate and transfer agreement signed with New Limpopo Bridge — the company that built the bridge in 1994.

While efforts to reach Zimra commissioner general were futile, analysts said government was ill-capacitated to refurbish the border.

“They may want to, and even have plans of doing so, but government has so many other priorities in the form of the civil service.

“So, this will always remain a plan in the pipeline as the border further dilapidates,” said Issis Mwale, a Harare-based economic analyst.

Government’s wage bill gobbles up about 80 percent of government’s monthly revenue inflows

Civil servants cost government $465,75 million in the first two months of this year, weighed down by bonus payments, some of which are still owing, according to official figures, and while other issues need to be addressed, government’s main focus is the wage bill.—Ndakaziva Majaka

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