By Rex Mphisa
THE Beitbridge Municipality is pleading with parastatals to use its infrastructure in the border town — a move the local authority hopes will trigger movements in its industrial area spurning both development and employment.
In an interview at the weekend Beitbridge town clerk Loud Ramakgapola said if the National Oil Company of Zimbabwe (Noic) revisited its Beitbridge depot and the National Railways of Zimbabwe was to make use of its large Beitbridge station, positive change would be seen in the border town.
Although it’s capacity could not be established, Noic has reasonably large strategic reserve fuel tanks at Beitbridge, which in the recent past were used to supply the southern part of the country.
To date these storage tanks are guarded by the Zimbabwe National Army, a sign that they were important and could be handy.
“This infrastructure is idle as we speak yet it can be made useful. For us, as a town we see a lot of development coming if the fuel depot in Beitbridge is used because then a lot of traffic will come into the town. We need that traffic for growth.”
“We are fully aware it (the fuel depot) was upgraded some few years back meaning it is useful. History says when Rhodesia was hit by economic sanctions this was a strategic depot which supplied part of Rhodesia with fuel. The infrastructure is under utilised and not benefiting the public. Beitbridge due to its proximity to South Africa and the presence of this depot must not have fuel problems we experience at times,” Ramakgapola said.
He added: “I am not privy to where our fuel supplies are centred at, but I am saying we have a government facility here and its utilisation will change the economic outlook of the town of Beitbridge. It sits well with our position of being a port.”
“Week-in, week-out we handle pre-owned cars bought by Zimbabweans from different places and we should have adequate fuel for them,” he said.
Besides, he said, haulage traffic ferrying goods to and from South African ports and industries stop at Beitbridge.
Ramakgapola said with the rehabilitation of the Harare-Beitbridge Road expected to start anytime soon, some goods could be moved to trains and facilities at Beitbridge allowed that.
“The rail station can play a major role during the rehabilitation of the Harare-Beitbridge Road, which is likely to see delays in the movement of traffic. The resuscitation of Beitbridge Station will bring movement in our industrial section and NRZ should be thinking of passenger trains which could be introduced bringing a vibrant local taxi and transport industry.”
Beitbridge is home to perhaps one of the largest marshalling yards with more than 26 tracks that are currently lying idle because of very little or no rail activity.
“This the time NRZ must up its game to introduce passenger rail transport. With the state of the Harare-Beitbridge Highway, this should come in handy. Goods trucks are damaging the highway now prone to accidents which the rail can help curb.”
Ramagkapola invited players in the aviation industry with small aircrafts to introduce commercial flights from Harare to Beitbridge where an aerodrome suitable for small crafts exist.
“The government is planning to establish an international air terminal at Beitbridge, but in the meantime businessmen should be creative and think outside the box. Moving forward we must see some people introducing faster transport between Harare, Bulawayo and Victoria Falls,” he said.
The nearest international airport to Beitbridge is in Polokwane, South Africa, some 200km away, while locally it is in Bulawayo some 300km away.