By BRIAN HATYOKA
in KAZUNGULA –
HUNDREDS of out-going cargo trucks are marooned at Kazungula border in Southern Province, with some drivers blaming the pile-up on dawdling customs officers and others on a broken-down pontoon.
One border official put the blame of the truckers, saying too many of them- for their own reasons -seemed to prefer using the Botswana route into Zimbabwe, overwhelming customs officers on the Zambian side.
Whatever the reason, the result is that hundreds of trucks were yesterday backed up over a four-kilometre stretch; from the border to a point near the weighbridge on the Livingstone-Kazungula-Sesheke Road, inconvenienced by a lack of ablutionary facilities.
A Times of Zambia crew that visited the scene heard that some truck drivers did not want to use the Victoria Falls Bridge route but preferred to go through Botswana when leaving Zambia for Zimbabwe.
No reasons were given for the preference.
A bleary-eyed Jonathan Katambo, a Zambian truck driver, was spending a third day at the border. “The pontoons were down two days ago and only one was working. We are forced to use the nearby bush to answer the call of nature, because this area has no water and no toilets,” he said.
Katambo said the truckers were also wearied by nights spent looking out for thieves. “This place has a lot of thieves who are stealing diesel and other goods from our trucks, which is why the situation must be addressed quickly,” he said.
Phillip Lekgothoane, a South African driver, also accused customs officers of being slow with the paperwork for the transporters. He said it was difficult to understand what was going on.
When contacted for a comment, Zambia Revenue Authority (ZRA) corporate communications manager Oliver Nzala said he was yet to gather information on the matter but would issue a comprehensive statement today.
An Engineering Services Corporation Limited (ESCO) official who sought anonymity, said the pontoons were working smoothly except for one which had broken down on the Botswana side.
The ESCO official accused the truck drivers of causing unnecessary congestion because they had pending issues with the owners of the cargo.
“Some trucks have not been cleared by their owners and they are causing the congestion unnecessarily here. Others don’t want to use the Victoria Falls Bridge route to Zimbabwe, they have decided to use the Botswana route and thus causing congestion,” the official said.
The drivers, however, dismissed the claims by ESCO, saying they had no pending issues with the owners of the cargo, and that it was customs officers who were delaying to clear them.
The drivers claimed that the clearance process from the Botswana side of the Zambezi River was faster that on the Zambian side.
Kazungula District Commissioner Pascalina Musokotwane said she was concerned about the situation but appealed to the drivers to exercise patience.
“The clearance system can sometimes be due to network failure, while the pontoons, which carry cargo trucks, are not always working smoothly…all these things can cause the delays in the movement of the trucks,” she said.
He denied that drivers were avoiding the Victoria Falls route, and the logjam, according to what he had gathered, was on-going construction works on the new Kazungula Bridge.
Mr Katambo said he had all the necessary documents from his company, but was delayed by customs officials.