Work with us to avoid border mess, road freight industry asks government

Truck drivers waited for days at the border between SA and Zimbabwe.
Truck drivers waited for days at the border between SA and Zimbabwe.
Image: Supplied

Transport and road freight organisations on Wednesday asked the government for a public-private partnership to prevent a repeat of the chaos at the Beitbridge border post.

The congestion between Zimbabwe and SA, attributed to this country's Covid-19 testing, was cleared at the weekend, according to home affairs. Minister Aaron Motsoaledi is scheduled to brief the media on Wednesday morning on borders and travel under the new lockdown regulations.

The Federation of Eastern and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff) are pleading for consultation as they prepare for the implementation of the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA).

The organisations said the loss of human life and cost of delays at Beitbridge could have been prevented.

“Government did not consult with industry bodies: it took a unilateral decision to impose stringent Covid-19 testing at the border posts, which resulted in more than 20km queues on both sides of the border. They only took heed of our proposals once the situation became dire,” said Fesarta CEO Mike Fitzmaurice.

The cost to SA so far has been five deaths and losses of up to R2bn, the groupings said.

“These tragic consequences followed after our warnings and advice on what could be done to avoid congestion were ignored. The need to work together is essential to ensure that this does not happen again.”

Saaff chairperson Dr Juanita Maree said in preparation for AfCFTA, commencing in less than a week, urgent action is needed to ensure the smooth flow of goods and people through all borders, Beitbridge in particular, under this treaty.

“The agreement is a phenomenal, once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 (about R80) a day. Municipalities, government agencies and departments, as well as the private sector on both sides of the border, need to collaborate to create capacity and efficiencies to ensure there are no bottlenecks at the border so much-needed economic growth can take place, and trade and business can flourish.”

“Trade facilitation measures that cut red tape, ease movement in a secure environment to simplify customs procedures in the AfCFTA framework, will help drive $292bn (about R4.2 trillion) of the $450bn (about R6.6 trillion) in potential income gains,” she said.

Saaff had provided 3,000 litres of water to exhausted drivers stuck in the queue, she added. The team was also organising other essentials as ongoing support.

“A well-established PPP [public-private partnership] will prevent similar disasters in the future, given the critical role the trucking and freight industry plays in facilitating AfCFTA’s infrastructure development and trade, with transport is the ultimate enabler,” said Maree.


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