KATIMA MULILO - Home affairs minister Albert Kawana has urged the business community to see the newly launched 24-hour Katima Mulilo border post operation as an economic opportunity.
However, truck drivers have asked for security to be beefed up at the border post and the no-man’s land between the two countries.
Kawana and his Zambian counterpart Jack Jacob Mwiimbu jointly launched the 24-hour operation of Katima Mulilo border post.
The ministers, during a joyous occasion on Tuesday said they would like to see increased trade volumes between Namibia, Zambia, and the DRC.
The Walvis Bay-Lumbashi economic corridor is the fastest-growing economic corridor in Namibia.
Kawana believes the move will have tremendous economic benefits for both countries.
“The business community will be able to conduct business between the two countries on a 24-hour basis. As the saying goes, ‘time is money’,
therefore, this will no longer apply at Katima Mulilo border post since services will be on a 24-hour basis. Our truckers will no longer need to sleep at the border post waiting to be cleared in the morning when the border opens. The required goods and services will be delivered on time to the consumers,” Kawana said.
He said both governments hope that the volumes passing through the Katima Mulilo border posts will increase.
He said importantly, the port of Walvis Bay presents an opportunity for the Republic of Zambia and the DRC to have an alternative route for sea transportation, thereby cutting down on the turnaround time for both their imports and exports.
As a gesture of good neighbourliness, Namibia took a unique decision to grant dry port facilities to all its landlocked neighbouring countries.
Namibia and Zambia are directly involved in the Walvis Bay-Ndola-Lubumbashi Corridor.
In the era of the 21st century, Kawana mentioned that the 4th Industrial Revolution had taken root.
He emphasised that Africa in general and SADC in particular, should not play catch-up while expressing happiness over the 24-hour border realisation.
While the strategic location of the border post allows the two countries to promote trade relations, Kawana indicated that costs to the business community will be reduced because of sharing facilities.
“Our two countries have played their part; it is time for the private sector to also play its part. I also believe that the port of Walvis Bay stands to benefit from this development. This is one of the most efficient ports on the west coast of Africa as rated by international institutions. Therefore, port authorities are called upon to take advantage of this positive development and adjust their operations accordingly,” he added.
Mwiimbu said operating on a 24-hour basis at the border is essential in meeting Zambia’s aspirations.
“The 24-hour operation will contribute to the creation of a continental market for goods and services, with ease of movement of people and capital,” he said.
He added that the 24-hour operations also seek to facilitate the growth of intra-African trade through better harmonisation and coordination of trade liberalisation across the continent.
The minister said the move to 24-hour operations at Katima Mulilo border post is an actualisation of a resolution from the 24th session of the Zambia-Namibia Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security (JPCDS) held from 17-21 April 2023 in Livingstone.
Despite their appreciation towards the Namibian and Zambian governments for opening the Katima Mulilo border post to be operational on a 24-hour basis, truck drivers urged the authorities to make their parking port on the no-man’s land safe.
The no-man’s land between Namibia and Zambia measures approximately over 200 metres and truckers entering or leaving Namibia for countries such as Zambia, the DRC, Malawi, and Zimbabwe, among others, are allowed to park there to rest and wait for the border post to open in the morning.
Prior to Tuesday’s launch of the 24-hour operation of the Katima Mulilo border post, many truckers, had made use of the no-man’s land to rest because the border closed at 18h00 on Monday and re-opened at 06h00 the following day.
One such trucker is Zambian national David Koniwile who works for BHL and expressed appreciation for the opening of the border 24/7.
Koniwile expressed serious concern over security issues as they carry valuable goods from many countries.
“It is good to operate on a 24-hour basis. There is concern however about the security of truck drivers here on no-man’s land. Authorities were not supposed to start the 24-hour operation without sorting out the security issues first. There is no security here. They were supposed to put up streetlights here unless police will be patrolling 24/7? We don’t see any police patrolling here and we fall victim to thieves. Many drivers here cry about thieves who steal with impunity. It’s a long stretch and it’s forever dark here. We need security as truck drivers,” bemoaned Koniwile while parked on no-man’s land in a long queue, waiting to be cleared to proceed to Walvis Bay.
Another Zambian trucker, Peter Ilunga, applauded the two governments for the move.
“When you reach here at the border, sometimes you find that by 17h00 or 18h00 the customs officials are preparing to knock off. But now, we are very happy because I know that if I am coming from Walvis Bay, I will cross the border and drive to my destinations.
Another challenge the truckers raised is the delays at the border which affects the quality of their goods such as fish and meat products.
“We load fish and chickens from Walvis Bay but we used to get delayed and it was not good for our clients. We however are really appreciative to both governments now because the border is open,” Ilunga said.
Moses Muska from Ndola in Zambia, some 1200 km from Namibia also had security concerns.
“Both governments should look at security issues at no-man’s land. Things that happen to truck drivers here are not good. When we park the trucks to go and clear our papers, criminals come and steal from us. We need lights here so feel safe to sleep either on the Zambian side or Namibia side,” Musuka who is en route to Walvis Bay from Ndola pleaded.
The launch of 24-hour operations at the border post comes with new responsibilities and challenges, Kawana continued.
He assured the public and truckers that the congestion due to trucks waiting to be cleared would be a thing of the past.
He directed that trucks should be cleared speedily as soon as they arrive regardless of when they arrive. “Those charged with security must ensure that goods do not get stolen from trucks at night while trucks wait to be cleared. Therefore, I expect a seamless operation at this place. This objective can only be achieved if there is better coordination between and among all stakeholders. Let us seamlessly implement the directives of our political principals, the presidents of our two countries,” Kawana stressed.