$200m Beitbridge make-over launched with fanfare

Yesterday saw the official launch of Zimbabwe’s $200m revamp of its Beitbridge border post which includes improvements to customs facilities, perimeter fencing, gate-control infrastructure, parking areas, staff accommodation, a weighbridge, and the town’s commercial centre.

The project by Zim Borders, which won the tender earlier this year, is hoped to eradicate manifold problems at one of Africa’s busiest hinterland crossings.

It is estimated to some 15 000 people and 500 commercial trucks pass through Beitbridge daily, and that crumbling capacity is imperilling the already severely strained border post.

In peak times, when passage and trade spikes, Beitbridge is a no-go zone for anyone hoping to get anywhere fast.

But yesterday, amid much fanfare and excitement, Zimbabwean President Emmerson Mnangagwa said the refurbishment project was about to put paid to negative notions that Beitbridge was a hopeless mess of congestion and corruption.

The launch followed hot on the heels of salary raises for public officials, from 17.5% to 22.5%.

Detractors said although it was all fair and well that all these wonderful announcements had been made - some three weeks before Mnangagwa heads into elections since he deposed Robert Mugabe - Zimbabwe did not have the necessary funds to afford public salary increases.

Zim’s working population is said to be around 350 000, or 45% of its current work force.

It’s just a political ploy on the part of Mnangagwa, some say.

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