Parliament, Tuesday, 12 January 2021– The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is of the view that the implementation of One-Stop Border Post with neighbouring countries and the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA) will be a solution to the challenges at Beitbridge Border Post.

The committee today visited Beitbridge Border Post port of entry 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 pillars in the way of ensuring the smooth functioning of the border area and is thus concerned by 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 Adv Bongani Bongo.

The aim of One-Stop Border Post is to improve the efficiency of movement at the port of entry something which is lacking at Beitbridge currently. The efficiency of movement of people and goods is critical to achieving the objectives of the African Continental Free Trade Agreement. Furthermore, 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,” Adv Bongo emphasised.

From the briefing that the committee received, it was clear that 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. Also, according to the committee, planning would have ensured that there is adequate provision of health officials to assist with health screening at Beitbridge. The committee said the fact that the Polymerase Chain Reaction 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,” added Adv Bongo.

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 we are waiting 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.

The committee reiterates its displeasure at the humanitarian and health risk that was evident at the border post during the past two months. “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,” Adv Bongo said.

Meanwhile, the committee welcomed the decision by Cabinet to close the 20 land ports to the public according to the recommendation of the committee as a means to reduce congestion and the high risk of 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 security of our borders especially now that illegal crossing might increase as a result of the closure of the borders.

The committee will on Thursday visit Lebombo and Mbuzini borders to assess the implementation of interventions to alleviate congestion.


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