'Upgrade border post'

HARARE - Immigration officials have slammed the Finance ministry for slowing down the upgrading of the Beitbridge border post.

Officials are now hoping that Finance minister Tendai Biti will use the 2013 budget to rectify the situation.

Charles Gwede, the assistant immigration manager in charge of Beitbridge Border Post said infrastructure at the country’s busiest border post is dilapidated and in need of urgent restoration.

“The infrastructure at Beitbridge Border Post is not compatible with the volume of traffic that we handle everyday, especially during peak periods,” he told the parliamentary committee on Budget, Finance and Investment Promotion during a hearing last week.

“It has taken too long for government to address this problem, therefore we urge the minister of Finance to look into such issues when coming up with the 2013 national budget. We also need more funding to address the issue of staff shortages,” he said.

Gwede implored on Biti to inject funds that would speed the “overdue” upgrading that has been dragging for the last decade.

Government earlier this year cancelled a $97 million Public-Private Partnership (PPP) for the upgrading of infrastructure at Beitbridge Border Post after the contractor failed to meet obligations, as the project has been on the cards since 2007.

The failure on the side of the contractor is due to cash shortages and other controversies.

Gwede said understaffing was the main reason behind the underperformance of the station.

This comes as Investment and Economic Planning deputy minister Samuel Undenge said Beitbridge town had been selected as an economic zone.

An economic zone refers to a designated area in which companies are taxed very lightly or not at all in order to encourage economic activity through favourable customs regulations.

This move is meant to boost exports and stimulate production, which in turn will generate funds for the upgrading of the dilapidating border post.

According to Undenge, Zimbabwe is adopting the concept, which is common in other parts of the world like the European Union trade block and China.

African Development Bank vicepresident, Zimbabwean-born Mthuli Ncube, is on record as saying failure to spruce up the image of the border post and understaffing cost the country up to $35 million annually.

The volume of traffic at Beitbridge can average more than  12 000 travellers and 3 500 vehicles a day during the festive season.

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