Cyclone Idai – Freight companies look to Durban, vendors feel the pinch

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By Staff Reporter

FREIGHT companies that normally used the Mutare-Beira corridor route to bring cargo into Zimbabwe and other countries in central Africa like the DRC, have had to re-route to the South African port city of Durban following the devastating Cyclone Idai.

The tropical storm barreled through southern Africa leaving a trail of deaths of over a 1000 people and destruction of infrastructure that will require tens of millions to repair two weeks ago.

Zimbabwe’s freight industry which involves importation and exportation of goods is one of the economic sectors affected most by the cyclone.

A survey carried by this publication revealed that, most local freight companies have scaled down operations while workers have forced to go on leave.

The GMS Dry Port in Mutare normally used by Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) to clear cargo is grounded as there is no cargo coming from Mozambique.

Mozambique was done a double blow after the Manica-Beira road, which it recently rehabilitated with support of Chinese Afrexim bank, had some of its bridges swept away in Nhamatanda area, near the port of Beira.

Even vendors who survive on selling airtime and food for truck drivers at Dry Port have also borne the brunt of the cyclone.

“We are not in Chimanimani but we can feel the impact of the cyclone from this side.

“I eke a living from selling foodstuffs to the truck drivers and clearing agents. Ever since the cyclone hit Mozambique, there is no business to talk of because trucks are not moving,” said 37 year-old Grace Mwayera of Sakubva Township.

Mwayera said she is pinning her hopes on the quick rehabilitation of the Manica-Beira route so that transporters can resume operations.

Owners of a local drinking joint which operates near Forbes Border Post said sales have nose-dived ever since Cyclone Idai hit Zimbabwe and its eastern neighbour.

“Our clients are mainly truck drivers who come here to relax in transit to Beira or other regional countries. Sales have gone down, we hope the road will be repaired soon,” said the proprietor.

Even workers who are hired to offload and load containers at the Dry Port were left jobless as a result of the cyclone.

The Shipping and Forwarding Agents Association of Zimbabwe (SFAAZ) chairperson for the Forbes Border chapter, Prescilla Murewanhema told New that their operations have been affected.

“Things are not ok in the freight industry. The border is deserted. We can’t operate because there is no linkage between Mutare and Beira.

“We have lost business as there no traffic movement for the past two weeks. Employees have been forced to go on leave,” she said.

Murewanhema said global business has also been affected as exports to as far as China were not being processed, adding that shipments have been delayed or have had to be re-routed to other ports such as Durban leaving expenses hitting the roof.

“Cargo is being diverted to Durban and we are losing revenue here. The whole region has been affected as Beira is the same corridor used to carry or move transit cargo to Malawi, Zambia and Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC),”she said.