Countries neighbouring Tanzania including Uganda, Rwanda and Zambia have barred truck drivers from the country to cross their borders. The development comes as cases of the COVID-19 in Tanzania now reach 480 with 196 new cases reported both on the mainland and on the island of Zanzibar.
Of these, 174 are from Tanzania Mainland and the other 22 are from spice isles of Zanzibar. The grim news gets only worse with the announcement of six more deaths bringing the total number of deaths to 16.
Not all is doom and gloom, there are reports of 167 people recovering from the virus and of these, 36 are from Zanzibar and 83 are from the Mainland.
Meanwhile, truck drivers are protesting the strict border measures placed on transit vehicles. For example, at the Mutukula border with Uganda, it is reported that several drivers have tested positive for the coronavirus and been denied border crossing. However, the reports are vague as to what action was taken other than been ‘sent home.’
Similarly, at the Rusumo border with Rwanda, Tanzanian truck drivers are not allowed to cross the border. Instead they are o offload their cargo and turn back.
As for the Ugandan border, the situation is none the better, authorities there want drivers to “…hand over the vehicles to their Uganda counterparts to complete the journey,” local media reports.
While the government is yet to respond to the border dilemma or to atleast issue an official statement as to what the Tanzanian drivers should do and if found positive of the disease where they should turn to, the Federation of East African Freight Forwarders Association (FEAFFA) has spoken against the treatment of the drivers.
The association has spoken up against Rwanda’s stand not to allow Tanzanian drivers into the country. However, Rwanda is not alone in taking this measure, the Tanzania Freight Forwarders Association (Taffa) has also made public that it too has received a letter this time from Zambia also barring Tanzanian drivers to enter the country.
Stopping the Tanzanian truck drivers at these key border points, like Mutukula and Rusumo affects the delivery of goods to other countries as well. Tanzania relies on passing through Rwanda and Uganda among other countries to deliver goods to inner parts of the continent mainly, the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
It is unclear how the government will reconcile the current situation. Will the neighbouring countries be willing to open their borders to Tanzanian drivers or will a new rule take precedence, offload cargo at the border and in country freight forwarders to take over?
Businesses will suffer entirely new costs that will be imposed by the new cargo carriers in the next country not to mention the offloading and reloading expenses at the border post and the time that process will consume.
There is also the matter of safety and cargo quality, offloading and reloading will create loopholes for theft and damage to occur. The resulting losses and new expenses will nly increase the price of the product when it arrives to its destination and in effect, increase the cost of living there.