Editor's Comment

Too many roadblocks unproductive

THE protest by over 300 Tanzanian truckers over increased checkpoints on Zambian roads and alleged unfair treatment by the police should be a source of concern.
Government is working very hard to make the investment climate in Zambia conducive for all, and surely one of the efforts is not to frustrate facilitators of trade.

It is saddening that efforts by Government is being undermined by some practices that are denting the image of the country.

For instance, the protest by truckers is receiving unwarranted international attention over matters that can be resolved in a very short time. Better still, such a protest should not happen in the first place.
The truck drivers claim that there are just too many checkpoints, virtually all of them serving the same purpose.
Not too long ago, Government significantly reduced the number of police check points, especially on highways, because these were major obstacles to trade.
Government acknowledges that the prevalence of too many road blocks frustrates motorists because they fail to achieve their targets of delivering their goods on time.
The effect of these delays also adversely impact various businesses who rely on imported and exported goods.
For a country that seeks to take advantage of its land-linked status, Zambia cannot afford to be the bottleneck of trade flow. Its advantageous location places it at the epicenter of trade in Eastern and Southern Africa.
This is evidenced by the busy activities of border posts such as Chirundu, Kasumbalesa, Nakonde, Katima Mulilo and Mwami.
Government has responded to easing the passage of goods and services through the country by creating one-stop border posts.
Chirundu and Kasumbalesa are already one-stop border posts but efforts are being made to create more, including the construction of a rail bridge at Kazungula.
All these efforts will count for nothing if there is no change of mindset and attitude by our security services, especially the Zambia Police Service, at whom the protest by the foreign truckers is directed.
The drivers have complained about, among other things, the increase in the number of checkpoints from three to one every 100kms and council levy of K90, which previously was only being paid at Mbala turn-off but is now also being paid at Kapiri-Mposhi and Chingola check points.
Drivers also raised complaints of being allegedly mistreated by police to an extent of being beaten severely, and that police disappear with their documents and only appear after two days, thereby delaying their delivery time.
If this is true, then it is totally unacceptable. The concern must be thoroughly investigated and a permanent solution found for it.
Zambia made a conscious decision to be part of the global family in trading.
That is why Zambia joined the Southern African Development Community (SADC) as well as the Preferential Trade Area (now the Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA), thus becoming a member of a large economic and trading unit.
Through SADC and COMESA, Zambia is resolved to overcoming some of the barriers it faces. Police checkpoints should not be stumbling blocks for trade in the SADC and COMESA region.
We urge authorities to liaise amongst themselves to ensure that the country continues to facilitate the smooth flow of traffic and be a conduit for trade in the region.
That said though, Zambia cannot and should never compromise its security for expediency in trade. With smuggling and human trafficking still a major challenge, authorities have to be thorough.
All goods must be properly declared and, if required, taxes paid for them. Zambia needs every ngwee that it can collect. Such thoroughness, however, does not mean harassment.
With the updating of scanning facilities at most border posts, traffic should be flowing faster. This progress should now not be frustrated by so many police road blocks. These roadblocks should never be obstacles to achieving regional economic integration.
There is no need to be holding motorists longer than necessary because time is money.

 



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