Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs says the implementation of a One-Stop Border Post with neighbouring countries and the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA) offers a solution to the challenges at the Beitbridge Border Post.
The committee on Tuesday visited Beitbridge in response to the challenges faced at this port of entry from the beginning of the festive season.
On 18 May 2020, when the committee received a briefing from the department, it identified the One-Stop Border Post and BMA as measures to ensure the smooth functioning of the border area.
The committee expressed concern at the slow progress in implementing this policy position.
“To alleviate the perpetual crisis at this border, the government must move with speed to implement an already agreed 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 chairperson of the committee, Advocate Bongani Bongo.
The efficiency of movement of people and goods is critical to achieving the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. In addition, 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.
“The agency will also solve the challenge of various departments that operate in silos and will impact on the general operation at the port of entry,” said Bongo.
The committee said there was inadequate planning, especially considering the different health requirements in Botswana and Zimbabwe, and conditions caused more trucks to divert and cross through Zimbabwe rather than Botswana.
The committee believes that, had there been adequate plans in place, the increased truck volume would have been anticipated at Beitbridge.
Despite this, the committee welcomed the interventions by the South African government in resolving some of these challenges that were encountered.
What is needed in the short to medium terms, the committee said, is to ensure that some of those solutions are strengthened while awaiting for the implementation of the One-Stop Border Post and BMA.
The committee also appreciates the work done by the officials of the different government departments under extremely difficult and stressful circumstances.
Meanwhile, the committee welcomed the decision by Cabinet to close the 20 land ports to the public to reduce the high risk of COVID-19 transmission.
The committee also recommends the increased presence of the South African National Defence Force and the South African Police Service at Beitbridge to ensure the security of borders.
The committee is expected to visit the Lebombo and Mbuzini borders on Thursday to assess the implementation of interventions to alleviate congestion.