Driving into a new future: Loaded trucks queue on the Zimbabwe side of Beitbridge border post waiting to enter SA. The busy border post is to be refurbished and expanded. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK/ SUNDAY TIMES
Driving into a new future: Loaded trucks queue on the Zimbabwe side of Beitbridge border post waiting to enter SA. The busy border post is to be refurbished and expanded. Picture: KATHERINE MUICK/ SUNDAY TIMES

Harare — Zimbabwe’s President Emmerson Mnangagwa on Wednesday presided over a groundbreaking ceremony at Beitbridge border post, ahead of a planned $200m revamp of the facility.

The refurbishment of the border post, among the busiest in the region, is widely expected to ease congestion. Upon completion it will become a one-stop border crossing.

An estimated 15,000 people and 500 commercial trucks pass through the border post daily. The numbers often double during peak holiday season and traffic delays can run up to several days.

"Beitbridge border post has for a long time required a facelift as it significantly contributes to Zimbabwe’s revenue, a major facilitator of movement of bulk goods in and out of the country," said Mnangagwa. Modernisation of the border post was "set to improve movement of goods and people. The one-stop border post will become an efficient economic enabler."

"The development presents exciting times for the development of Beitbridge town. A new international airport will be constructed. Water reticulation systems will be upgraded as well. Beitbridge will become the face of Zimbabwe."

Since his inauguration in November, Mnangagwa has prioritised infrastructural development. The Beitbridge border revamp is another feather in his cap, his supporters have stressed, ahead of elections set for later in July.

Other ongoing infrastructural projects include the dualisation of the Harare-Beitbridge-Chirundu highway and the Bulawayo-Beitbridge highways.

"My government is bold at making decisions for the national interest and the improvement of the lives of our country’s citizens. The development represents my government’s resolve to modernise the economy," said Mnangagwa.

A consortium called Zim Borders was awarded the contract to refurbish the Beitbridge border post by the Zimbabwe cabinet in February.

Glen Cohen, chairman of Zim Borders, said that the consortium was pleased to be part of a project aimed at reviving the country’s infrastructure.

The project will encompass refurbishment of the road network to and from the border post, perimeter fencing, gate-control infrastructure, parking areas, a commercial centre, staff accommodation and a weigh-bridge. It will include an upgrade of communications, security and lighting systems and construction of a new bridge.

Meanwhile, Zimbabwe’s government has increased the salaries of its public servants by 17.5% and awarded a 22.5% "special allowance" to members of the army, three weeks before the country holds an election.

Economic observers said the pay hike and allowance was "a strategy" to win votes and endear the public workforce to Mnangagwa, who is contesting the presidency for the first time.

John Robertson, an economist and director at John Robertson Economics, said it was important for the government to cut the public workforce size rather than to increase salaries and pay allowances.

He said the government did not have money and any pay increase for its staff would be a political promise "and will be hard to keep economically … some say its workforce is as high as 350,000, about 45% of the entire working population."

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