Malawi: Goods Destined for Tanzania, Malawi Stranded in South Africa

Cape Town — Cross-border traders from South Africa to Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia and Zimbabwe could be counting losses as one of Africa’s most important road routes is again congested at the Beitbridge border crossing from South Africa to Zimbabwe.


This is the second time in just over a year that the bridge gets backlogged.


The latest backlog has seen more than 20kms of traffic backed up from the border crossing over the Limpopo River on the South African side to the nearest town, Musina.


The great majority of the vehicles stuck in the logjam are trucks and pantechnicons carrying goods into Zimbabwe, Zambia, Malawi and Tanzania, among other destination countries.

Drivers forced to stay with their vehicles, some of them having already been a week in the slow-moving queue to the border post, are concerned that there appears to be no end in sight to their dilemma.


Some complain of being robbed at gunpoint when policing is at a minimum during night-times while others say that they had not planned for the delays and are running out of money to pay for food.


Enterprising locals have begun moving between the vehicles offering mainly bananas and other fruit as well as some veggies and prepared meals for the drivers who cannot get food and also stay with their vulnerable vehicles.


While Covid-related measures were previously responsible for a major backlog, this time the cause is the implementation on the Zimbabwean side of new systems meant to speed up transit through the border post, but which have not worked as planned.

SA’s Road Freight Association has voiced its concern over the situation at Beitbridge, while SA ministers have weighed in on the problem too.


But in the main there is little the South African authorities can do to ameliorate the increasingly difficult situation of the hundreds of drivers involved in the extensive traffic jam.


The issue lies primarily with a new electronic system on the Zimbabwean side which is apparently very slow and experiencing “teething problems”, as one Zimbabwe official put it.


Without a resolution yet in sight and no indication from the Zimbabweans as to when they might expect their clearance processing system issues to be resolved, there is growing concern that the severe slowdown of traffic through the key site may have a significant knock-on effect on the economies of the region, all of which have been heavily hit by the Covid pandemic.



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