BY REX MPHISA
ZIMBABWE is set to lose billions of dollars in potential revenue to the new Kazungula River Bridge which is expected to be functional by year-end, offering a shorter alternative route to road transporters from South Africa to Zambia and other northern countries in the region.
The bridge links Zambia’s Kazungula town with Botswana.
Its completion presents a headache for Zimbabwe over loss of transit fees.
“Although it remains anyone’s guess when the new Kazungula Bridge across the confluence of the Chobe and Zambezi rivers will officially open to traffic, the strongest indication yet that it’s imminently close was yesterday received from the Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA),” Shipping News said this week.
It said the most telling sign that the bridge would become the new transport power point of the region was Zambia’s decision to relocate the Zambia Revenue Authority’s (ZRA) headquarters from Livingstone near Zimbabwe, to Kazungula.
ZRA long announced that it would be moving its regional office from Livingstone to the southern Zambian town from which the much-hyped logistical linkage has taken its name.
The announcement comes amid mounting expectation that the bridge will fundamentally alter the movement of road and rail freight across the sub-Saharan region, Shipping News wrote.
Transporters, it said, would also not need much persuasion to divert traffic away from other north-south route border posts such as Beitbridge, considering the shambles it has been of late.
It quoted a Musina, South Africa, shipping agent saying “all roads currently lead to Kazungula”.
“Zimbabwe has only itself to blame after failing over the years to improve its Beitbridge border port which has become a nightmare for transport, shipping and forwarding agents,” a Beitbridge transport broker said.
“There is too much delays and lack of urgency. Everyone is viewed as a criminal, with transporters subjected to delays, exaggerated scrutiny.”
The agent added: “Upgrading of the border post on the Zimbabwean side has added to drivers’ miseries and there seems no urgency in the whole work.
“Zimbabwe’s border post has been undergoing an upgrade for the last two years, but has no meaningful work to show for that period.”
Congestions and long winding queues that divide Beitbridge into two has become the order of the day.
Although the shortest route to Lusaka from Johannesburg is through Beitbridge at 1 525 kilometres against Kazungula’s 1 730 kilometres, hauliers are likely to go the longer route running from away from frustrations at Beitbridge.
Namibia, too, with a road network said to be the best in Africa according to the World Bank, is making a determined effort to benefit from the bridge by luring freight out of the Copperbelt towards the Port of Walvis Bay.