By Thupeyo Muleya
South Africa’s Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is this week scheduled to visit Beitbridge and Lebombo border posts to assess progress on the alleviation of challenges that led to delays during the just-ended festive season.
Most travellers who used the two ports to move to and from Zimbabwe and Mozambique were spending at least 48 hours to pass through the borders.
In a statement, committee chairperson Advocate Bongani Bongo said the team would visit its border with Zimbabwe tomorrow before proceeding to the border post with Mozambique at Lebombo on Thursday.
Adv Bongo said the committee was concerned by the conditions people faced at these borders which posed both humanitarian and health risks.
“This visit will be used to interact with the departments operating at the ports of entry to ascertain if resolutions have been found to challenges faced at these sites,” he said.
The legislator said Beitbridge and Lebombo border posts usually handled huge volumes of traffic destined for the three countries and beyond.
These ports of entries had continued to handle large numbers travellers into and out of South Africa under the obtaining conditions where the world was battling against the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Also, these ports of entry serve as the gateway for trade with a high volume of trucks crossing these borders into the African continent. It was thus, alarming that they are faced by the kind of challenges that were experienced during this festive season. It is in this context that the committee will ascertain if solutions to cumbersome queues and to the lack of health documentation, have been found,” said Adv Bongo.
He said during the crisis, the committee called for an engagement with countries within Sadc to develop a blueprint that would ensure smooth and efficient crossing at the borders.
The committee was also looking forward to getting updates on engagements with neighbouring countries, especially regarding cooperation at the ports of entry.
Adv Bongo said the team would focus specifically on the challenges faced during the last two months.
“We are also going to be engaging with other role players to find practical and effective ways to deal with the challenges that riddle the ports of entry now and beyond this Covid-19 period,” he said.
Regarding operations at the ports of entry, he said they would also seek answers from the Department of Home Affairs on progress on operationalising the Border Management Authority (BMA) following the signing of the BMA Act into law.
“We have always been of the view that the BMA will be a vehicle by which challenges faced at the ports of entry are resolved, thus we need to ascertain progress in establishing this agency.
“In addition, the committee will also interact with staff at these ports of entry to, among other things, ascertain the availability of Personal Protective Equipment especially during the peak season, and will interact with travellers and truck drivers to obtain first-hand experience about their circumstances,” said Adv Bongo. The Herald.