By Petronella Sibeene OMAERE Since its completion in 1998, the Trans-Kalahari Highway has experienced various problems that led to less traffic and under-utilisation. The Minister of Works, Transport and Communication for Botswana Lesego Motsumi and her Namibian counterpart Joel Kaapanda acknowledged that the highway was under-utilised because of problems experienced by both countries. Motsumi, who accompanied Botswana President Festus Mogae who last week visited Namibia, expressed dissatisfaction with the current traffic going through the Trans-Kalahari highway, adding that when one looks at the high investment made, the wish for maximum usage becomes inevitable. “In one of the meetings we had during our visit, we agreed to look at the matter including an environmental impact that possible solutions could bring up,” she added. While 80 percent of Namibian, South African and Botswana long-distance truckers could use the highway, only one percent was doing so. Considering that during the construction of the highway one of the conditions agreed upon was not to fence the roadsides to avoid interference with the free movement of wildlife, Minister Motsumi suggested fencing could be done along the corridor, as this infrastructure has to start operating to its intended capacity. So far, Botswana has drilled boreholes in the area where wildlife dwells to limit the chances of animals moving around in search of water. Since the opening of the Trans-Kalahari highway, there have been a string of complaints that Botswana police, customs and immigration officials made it impractical for Namibian transport companies to use the highway. Botswana customs officials have also been accused of allegedly introducing unnecessary bureaucratic delays and of charging excessive road user charges. Responding to that, Motsumi confirmed the introduction of a new system that allows one to fill in a form at one border post and the same form could apply or be used at the other border posts. “We came up with an agreement in the region that one fills in a form that applies at all border posts,” she told New Era. In addition, there have been complaints about the tedious customs procedures between Namibia and member states of the Southern African Customs Union (SACU), which result in delays in the flow of goods and traffic in general. Realising that there are still practical teething problems to be taken care of such as the harmonisation of border procedures, opening times, customs processing, telecommunications, police controls and road usage fare, the Namibian minister Kaapanda stated that plans are underway to visit the area and evaluate the existing problems in order to find sustainable solutions. The minister added that a joint Namibia-Botswana commission had been set up to address problems experienced by users of the highway. “The two countries are desirous to see full utilization of the highway,” Kaapanda indicated. He added that most trucks are now opting for the long route that goes via Upington, South Africa.
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