Kazungula – Harassment by prostitutes and lengthy delays of transport and logistics business processes are some of the identified negative outcomes of the delay in the completion of the Kazungula Bridge, currently under construction over the Zambezi River between Zambia and Botswana.
The situation is so bad sometimes that truckers – some of whom are Namibian – spend up to two weeks before crossing the border between the two countries.
Currently trucks, people and cars that cross the border are ferried on a pontoon, which makes up to three trips in one hour, making the wait longer.
Most times, New Era understands, the truck queue stretches up to seven kilometres from the border.
Relating their ordeal, truckers said they spend between five to 12 days at the Botswana border before they are able to cross into Zambia and vice versa, exposing them to the temptations of sex workers and unhygienic conditions.
Preference to cross, they say, is given to trucks with perishable goods.
Currently truckers spend between N$4 and N$19 to tap water, take a bath and access ablution facilities.
And with the long wait the truckers allege they are denied their peaceful sleep by sex workers.
“We don’t sleep – sex workers are always knocking on the trucks for service [sex]. They come knocking door by door,” said one trucker, who only identified himself as Kingsley, as he showed off the stretcher used as a bed on the truck. Apart from the physical exhaustion experienced by the truckers, they claim they also make a loss in salary.
“The more days you spend at the border the more money one spends, leaving only a meagre amount to give to the family,” said Mwanga Chumi.
The N$161 million bridge, whose cost has since escalated to N$174 million, is jointly funded by the Zambian and Botswana governments. The 923-metre long bridge will comprise a road, pedestrian sideway and a rail.
The project, which kicked off in 2014, is only expected to be completed by October 2019 after it was delayed for seven months as a result of unforeseen circumstances such as rain. It has currently provided employment to 1,200 locals. The revelations were made during a two-day workshop held last week at Kasane, Botswana with journalists from Namibia, Botswana and Zambia.
The workshop aimed to create awareness on planned SADC infrastructure development projects, benefits and successes, and to promote Southern Africa’s regional integration agenda, said SADC PRO Innocent Mbvundla.
Another major concern raised as result of the delay is young girls, some as young as 12, delving into prostitution.
The headman of Kazungula Morgan Makanga said the sex trade is growing in the area.
“The challenge is jobs. The young girls have started to join the industry and are able to make an income to feed themselves and their families,” said Makanga.
Superintendent Mac Sonny of the police in Kazungula said the sex industry is rife at the border town.
However the police are challenged in identifying sex workers. “But where we have been tipped off we make arrests especially when one party does not conform to the agreed payment,” said Sonny.
So far the police have registered one case of human trafficking that is before the courts in Botswana.
Quarterly training has also been held to sensitise the community about human trafficking, said Kushatha Tsokedi, an administrator in the office of the district commissioner in Kasane. In addition, Sonny said apart from the sex workers there is also a concern of illegal immigrants crossing at ungazetted borders points.
Once completed, the bridge is envisaged to facilitate trade between the two countries and beyond and increase buying power. It is further envisaged to reduce transit time at the border and increase trade between the two
“We expect major development once the bridge has been completed and further enhancement of the tourism sector,” said Tsokedi.