Truck drivers speak of chaos, inhumanity at Beitbridge border

'At one stage the queue moved 200 metres a day — if we were lucky,' says a truck driver who was stuck for 10 days

Loaded trucks queue for days on both the Zimbabwe and SA side of the Beitbridge border post.
Loaded trucks queue for days on both the Zimbabwe and SA side of the Beitbridge border post.
Image: KATHERINE MUICK/SUNDAY TIMES

Truck drive Farai Chauraya was stuck at the Beitbridge border for a week — from December 20 to December 27 — trying to get from SA into Zimbabwe.

Chauraya, who is now in Zambia, said that in his seven years as a truck driver he had never seen such chaos at Beitbridge.

“I was stuck in my truck for days, not able to leave for fear of losing my place in the queue. The controlling of the queues was not good — things kept changing. At one stage the queue moved 200m a day — if we were lucky,” he said.

Some trucks were allowed to bypass the queue and violence started erupting as people became hot and frustrated.

“The pressure is unbearable,” he said.

Another driver, who didn't want to be named, said he and his co-driver were robbed. “My co-driver disappeared for two days and even today he is still in shock,” he said.

He told TimesLIVE that he had been driving trucks for six years but was considering leaving the industry.

“We are going through a lot. Truckers are not given any respect, yet we are risking ourselves. Truck drivers are never consulted about issues affecting us, yet we understand and know what needs to be done to resolve this situation,” he said.

“Officials just bypass us. They ignore us.”

He claims that while in the queue a woman had her handbag snatched. Two gun shots went off and the criminals just disappeared into the bush as the police stood by.

“There is no food and no water, but we cannot leave our trucks. Some people are selling food but it is expensive and we don't know where it comes from,” he said.

There is no food and no water, but we cannot leave our trucks.
Truck driver at Beitbridge border 

He said he survived on bread.

“It usually takes me about two hours to get through the Beitbridge border. It is difficult to sleep. I try to sleep in the driver's seat, but fold it in such a way that I can see when the queue moves,” he said.

Most of the drivers carry chemicals to mines in Zambia and grain to Zimbabwe.

DA Limpopo provincial leader Jacques Smalle said his party was gravely concerned about the indifference with which the provincial government was treating the imminent humanitarian crisis unfolding at the border.

Beitbridge has been overwhelmed by an influx of Zimbabwean citizens since authorities in that country banned international travel on January 4.

Scores of people are now trying to enter SA, both legally and illegally. The influx has created a huge backlog in the processing of documentation and Covid-19 testing and screening, which resulted in hundreds of people, many not wearing masks, crammed together without social distancing.

“People have to wait three days and longer to be processed. In desperation, they are sleeping in the bushes and on the side of the road while waiting to be helped. Food and water are not readily available.”

Smalle said the lack of facilities and water to practise adequate hygiene worsened the situation.

“The lack of dignity and undermining of human rights of immigrants entering at Beitbridge must be addressed.”

Limpopo is experiencing a devastating second Covid-19 wave, with 6,318 active cases — a stark increase from the 295 just a month ago.

“We are concerned that this congestion, which categorises as a super-spreader, will have devastating consequences and put further strain on Limpopo’s poor and below-average health services,” Smalle said.

He urged Limpopo premier Stanley Mathabatha to convene the executive and immediately establish quarantine facilities and a field hospital at the border post.

As the host province to immigrants entering at Beitbridge,  it is the duty of the Limpopo government to not only protect South Africans from more Covid-19 infections, but also to ensure that immigrants and visitors are treated with dignity, he said.

TimesLIVE


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