Johannesburg Stock Exchange-listed construction firm Raubex, the primary contractor on the $241 million Beitbridge Border Post upgrade, has abandoned the project and left the site, NewsDay can reveal.

BY REX MPHISA

This development comes when government has already announced a huge increase in toll fees at Beitbridge in a bid to raise finances towards the upgrade.

Although reasons for Raubex’s absence could not be officially obtained, it is believed the company has not been paid since the start of project, which was launched by President Emmerson Mnangagwa
in 2018.

Transport and Infrastructural Development minister Joel Biggie Matiza, however, argued that Raubex’s work had been disturbed by the COVID-19-induced lockdown.

“We have been expecting them and they have since indicated they will be on site two weeks from now. They were disturbed by the COVID-19 lockdown,” he said.

Matiza has approved a new tolling structure which will see haulage trucks paying US$300 for a single passage through Beitbridge, the direct gateway from South Africa to all landlocked Sadc countries.

At the moment, trucks pay US$23 or its equivalent in other currencies used in the country for locally registered vehicles.

The new fees were enacted by Statutory Instrument 127, Toll Roads (Beitbridge Border Post Modernisation Project) Regulations, 2020, which some stakeholders said was putting the cart before the horse.

“How do we enact toll fees before the project is complete? What if suddenly material became cheap? They must complete the work and not rush to charge for envisaged projects which are not yet on the ground,” one transporter said.

Early in 2018, government handed the border modernisation concession to Zimborders, a consortium of local and international investors led by the La Frontiere Group, ending the tendering process stalled by infighting in the late former President Robert Mugabe’s fractious administration.

Raubex, with infrastructure, road construction and earthworks as well as materials divisions, and aggressively pursuing continental opportunities in its expansion drive was on the ground in Beitbridge, where civil works were ongoing.

“They (Raubex) have not shown up after a (COVID-19) break. They could have taken advantage of the thin traffic during initial stages of the COVID-19 lockdown, but now, haulage traffic has picked up immensely,” a border official said. “There is talk they have not been paid from day one and operations have ground to a halt.”

The Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) last week reported that haulage traffic movement through Beitbridge had doubled following Botswana’s closure of her borders providing an alternative route into the northern parts of southern Africa through Kazungula.

Although it provides a shorter route up north through Beitbridge, which processes an average 15 000 people and 500 trucks daily, Zimbabwe lost a lot of revenue from transit trucks to alleged corruption and delays at the border post.

At the moment, vehicles are spending up to two weeks at Beitbridge, which has been blamed on coronavirus testing and controls on both sides of the border and the slow and cumbersome border processes on the Zimbabwean side.

Shipping and Forwarders Agents Association (SFAAZ) have openly blamed corruption as the major cause of the logjam.
Zimra spokesperson Francis Chimanda said: “A number of border stakeholders operate at our border posts and each has a specific mandate to fulfil. At times, these roles and mandates may overlap during the clearance process. However, to mitigate against such occurrences, all border stakeholders are part of the border management team and regular stakeholder collaborative meetings are held to ensure that a co-ordinated border management approach is adopted and maintained in the clearance of cargo through the border post.”

He was responding to whether he was aware SFAAZ had complained to Chief Secretary to the Cabinet, Misheck Sibanda over the delays.

In its letter, SFAAZ said some officials preyed on drivers and road haulers and bemoaned bureaucracy at the post, saying that was likely to affect revenue as transporters would take the longer Botswana route.

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