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Leaders propose 'urgent action' on Highway

CHRISTOF MALETSKY

THE Presidents of Namibia and Botswana have instructed their ministries of transport to meet urgently in order to solve "teething problems" being experienced along the Trans-Kalahari Highway in the wake of a string of complaints levelled against Batswana officials.

A communique issued in Windhoek on Friday at the end of President Festus Mogae's three-day state visit to Namibia, said the two presidents had agreed that the relevant ministries needed to address the problems "without delay"

The communique was read out at a press conference by Namibian Foreign Minister Theo-Ben Gurirab.

Elaborating on talks related to the Highway, President Sam Nujoma said the regional route was still quite new and that it was the job of the relevant ministries in both countries to make the regulations more easily understandable for travellers.

Mogae agreed, adding that Botswana had been involved with similar projects with Zimbabwe and Zambia and that it been difficult in the beginning.

"Maybe, people are not used to the regulations. These are regulations which are generally accepted within SACU (Southern African Customs Union)," the Botswana leader said.

Earlier last week, Nujoma said there was an urgent need for Namibia and Botswana to harmonise their immigration, police and road-user and road safety regulations

Addressing a state banquet held in Mogae's honour he described problems being experienced by road users of the newly-inaugurated Trans-Kalahari Highway, known as the Trans-Kgalagadi Highway in Botswana, as teething problems which could be expected from a road that flowed through several sovereign states.

Since the Highway opened, there has been a spate of complaints with business people and other travellers crying foul over the negative treatment meted out to them. Some users have reportedly started to shun the route and have reverted to using the road via Ariamsvlei.

Among others, complaints have centred on unnecessary bureaucratic delays on the part of Batswana officials, preferential treatment for Botswana nationals, excessive road charges, and alleged 'banditry' by people posing as police officers and demanding road user fees.

During Mogae's visit, Nujoma said that for the Highway to be seen as an efficient and effective short route, the authorities needed to work on regulations and make road users fully aware of what to expect along the route.

"Failure to do this amounts to defeating the very aims which brought the highway into existence. In other words, the highway will cease to be an asset and catalyst for economic activities in the sub-region. We cannot afford to start walking along such a bleak path," he said.

Concerns voiced by the Namibian and South African business community over the Highway received priority when the two heads of state met for official talks on Wednesday.

The Highway forms part of the strategic road network from the Namibian harbour town of Walvis Bay in the west to Maputo in Mozambique, which is part of the Walvis Bay-Botswana-Gauteng-Maputo Development Corridor.

Besides linking Namibia to Botswana, the Highway reduces the distance to the industrial hub of Gauteng in South Africa by about 500km and also provides an economic route for imports and exports from Walvis Bay.

Also:

Presidents discuss highway harassment

 

August 3, 1998

 

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