Peter Matambanadzo Senior Reporter
BOTSWANA has with immediate effect banned all imported second-hand vehicles from passing through its territory, a development that will affect imports from Europe through Namibia.
Zimbabweans who import European vehicles through Walvis Bay Port in Namibia mostly drive through Botswana, though some go through Zambia via the Trans-Caprivi Corridor rather than the Trans-Kalahari Corridor.
South Africa already has a similar ban in place and cars from Asia that come through Durban Port must be ferried on vehicle carriers up to Beitbridge.
This significantly increases the cost of importing a vehicle into Zimbabwe.
Botswana’s Transport and Communication Ministry said the ban was imposed after realising that most unregistered vehicle’s road worthiness was unknown, thus posing a danger to the public.
“The main reason for the ban is in compliance to the Road Traffic Act Sections 6 and 16, which states that only vehicles registered in Botswana are allowed on the road. Any unregistered vehicle found on Botswana’s roads will be impounded,” reads a circular released on December 19, 2013.
It said vehicle importers must use registered car transporters or flat-bed truck carriers.
“Failure to follow the directive would result in the car being impounded,” the government in Gaborone said.
It further pointed out that the imported vehicles in transit were often uninsured and this posed problems in the event of an accident.
“Unregistered vehicles are being increasingly used in crimes and there is no way of identifying the culprits,” the Botswana government added.
The move will affect vehicle imports by Zimbabweans who import second-hand cars from Europe.
South Africa took a similar step five years ago.
Ferrying a car by carrier through Botswana costs anywhere between US$1 000 and US$1 500 depending on type and size of vehicle.
Some Zimbabweans had been hiring drivers to collect their imported cars at Walvis Bay and bring them here for between US$250 and US$300 per trip.
Another option is to import cars from Asia through the Port of Beira in Mozambique, which is nearer and cheaper than South Africa; or via the Port of Dar es Salaam and then on through Zambia and/or Mozambique.
But for those importing from Europe, it means getting a vehicle carrier in Botswana or going via Livingstone, Zambia.
In March 2013 the Botswana government banned imported second-hand vehicles older than five years from its roads.
This was in compliance with a Southern Africa Customs Union agreement prohibiting use and registration of imported second-hand vehicles that are more than five years old.
Anyone attempting to circumvent the ban is subject to a fine of P40 000, or three times the value of the vehicle, or imprisonment of not more than 10 years.