Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South Africa’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs has called on the neighbouring country’s Government to speed up the full implementation of the One-Stop Border Post concept at Beitbridge Border Post, where the delays in the movement of commercial cargo and congestion of human traffic have become a perennial challenge.
The committee, which visited Sadc’s busiest inland port yesterday said it was also critical for the Border Management Authority (BMA) to be operational to attend to administrative and other operational challenges.
Beitbridge Border Post is one of the major trade links between South Africa and the rest of Sadc, where over seven million travellers and an estimated 700 000 commercial trucks pass through annually.
The parliamentarian’s visit was prompted by the chaos that obtained at the port of entry during the just-ended festive season where travellers were spending close to three days at the borders.
In a statement, the committee’s chairperson, Advocate Bongani Bongo said the problems at Beitbridge should be addressed without any further delays.
“To alleviate the perpetual crisis at this border, the government must move with speed to implement an already greed policy position to establish a One-Stop border post.
The tardiness in implementing this policy position is both unacceptable and a contributing factor to problems at this port of entry, ” said Adv Bongo. He said the One-Stop Border Post would improve the efficiency of movement at the port of entry which is currently the weakest link at Beitbridge.
Under the concept, travellers and goods will be cleared at one point for either entry or exit into both countries.
This is opposed to the current set-up where processes are being duplicated on both components of the border.
According to Adv Bongo, the efficiency of movement of travellers and goods is critical to achieving the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement.
“Furthermore, the One-Stop Border Post will ensure that South Africa and its neighbouring countries operate on a similar platform which will make crossing at the border easy.
The committee believes that the BMA will be an added force in handling the high volume of people and goods at the port of entry,” he said.
The legislator said the border authority would help coordinates operations and solve the challenge of various departments that operate in silos.
Adv Bongo said they had also established that poor planning on health management protocols had also worsened the crisis at Beitbridge.
He said the volume of commercial traffic at the border had drastically increased with more traffic diverting from Botswana to Zimbabwe.
“According to the committee, planning would have ensured that there is adequate provision of health officials to assist with health screening at Beitbridge.
In addition, the fact that the Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) test in South Africa was cheaper, would have logically meant that more travellers would opt to take the test in South Africa instead of taking it in Zimbabwe. It is thus unacceptable that this simple fact was ignored as capacity was not adequate,” said Adv Bongo.
However, he said they had noted that their government had fixed some of the teething challenges during the festive season.
“We remain committed to ensuring easy movement of people and goods, and thus we will continue our oversight work over the department to ensure that this crisis never happens again,” said the legislator. @tupeyo