THE European Union (EU) says it is still trying to find ways to assist Zimbabwe upgrade the Beitbridge Border Post to arrest smuggling, corruption and remove bottlenecks slowing down movement of goods and people.
BY OWN CORRESPONDENT
EU head of delegation in Zimbabwe, Philippe van Damme made the remarks early this week during a tour of Beitbridge Border Post, where he met officials from Zimbabwe Revenue Authority, immigration department and other related stakeholders.
“We are trying to find ways of how the EU can assist improving the Beitbridge Border Post,” he said.
Beitbridge is the busiest dry port in sub-Saharan Africa and it services land-locked Sadc countries that rely on better-equipped South African ports.
The border post — notorious for smuggling, human trafficking and corruption — is expected to become busier this year, as countries move large volumes of food to mitigate effects of a ravaging drought sweeping across the region.
The drought, the worst in more than 35 years, has affected nearly all member states, leaving more than 28 million people in need of humanitarian assistance.
The Sadc Council of Ministers, which met in Gaborone last month, agreed to declare 2016 a regional disaster, thereby opening doors for donor agencies to assist in mobilising food aid for people facing hunger.
Van Damme did not give details about the EU budget or its modus operandi on the envisaged assistance, but hinted the border post would be upgraded to conform to international standards.
He did not say if the assistance was initiated by the EU or solicited for by the government, but relations between the two have been warming up of late.
The diplomat, who was accompanied by his wife, also met with officials of the Beitbridge Town Council and the Bikita Rural District Council.
Beitbridge town secretary, Loud Ramagkapola said their meeting focussed on the town’s current $8,8 million budget, council’s revenue collection and Commonwealth local government programmes.
“We also discussed how council was sensitising residents on the new Constitution,” Ramagkapola said.
Already, the government has set up a ministerial committee chaired by Home Affairs minister Ignatious Chombo to improve the border post and plug leakages.