The success of the Chirundu one-stop border post, commissioned between Zambia and Zimbabwe, near Kariba last year, has put pressure on the government to speed up the establishment of a similar operation at Beitbridge.
The government has blamed inadequate parking as the reason for congestion at the Beitbridge border post on the South African side, forcing travellers and long-distance truck drivers to queue for hours to be cleared before crossing the border.
Beitbridge is among the busiest border posts in the Sadc economic region, with volumes rising to over 12 000 travellers and 3 500 vehicles a day over the festive season.
The Beitbridge port additionally handles an estimated average of 500 trucks per day and the congestion at the port has created opportunities for corruption and revenue leakages, which are threats to efficient trade and tourism.
Government has entered into a 15-year Built, Operate and Transfer arrangement with a South African company, which will see the construction and upgrading of facilities at the border post.
The move to upgrade Beitbridge would also promote trade and improve efficiency for those doing business at the post.
Currently, it is estimated government is losing over $200 million annually in lost production, tourism traffic and revenue due to the failure by the Beitbridge port to handle huge volumes of traffic.
While traffic is moving faster now at the Chirundu border post, our major concern is that this traffic moving quickly through the Zambia-Zimbabwe border would hit a bottleneck at Beitbridge. So Beitbridge would naturally be the next one-stop border operation.
The Beitbridge border control project must be given all possible support.
With the necessary political will, there is nothing to stop this. But corruption is rife in all state departments represented at the border control.
All government departments at the border do not work well here. This endemic corruption at Beitbridge should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.
When the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Budget and Finance visited Beitbridge last week to investigate delays at the border with South Africa due to serious congestion, they implored Zimra and the public to work together to stamp out corruption.
Shocking revelations during the public hearing in Beitbrigde that Zimra officials were using delaying tactics to frustrate people so that they ended up paying bribes to officers manning the border to gain passage of their goods simply shows there is a complete failure of governance systems in the country.
It is easy to leave and come into the country after paying a bribe of $50, yet the police and the army are deployed there.
People trying to cross to Zimbabwe after doing their business have no choice but to pay bribes to avoid spending days at the border.
Congestion is the biggest challenge in Beitbridge because there is no separation between commercial transactions and ordinary travellers.
Finance minister Tendai Biti, in his 2011 National Budget statement, announced plans to revamp the border post, but until accountability systems have been put in place nothing will improve.
Government should deal decisively with corruption at the highest echelons across all government departments manning our border controls.
Not even computerising the border will improve service delivery, nor will building another route to decongest the post.
It has been discovered over 400 bogus clearing agents are operating at the Zimbabwean side of the border, resulting in transporters having to wait many days to clear their goods.
Why is the government not flushing them out? What about weeding out known officials corruptly using their positions to enrich themselves? Whose interest are they serving?
Isn’t it curious that such activities could escalate at this important border control without being checked both within immigration, Zimra, police, army and outside?