Urgent action plan needed at SA’s ports of entry: home affairs committee

Stalled traffic snakes into the distance on the Zimbabwean side of the border as drivers wait to cross into SA. Queues were later eased after visits by officials. File image.
Image: Thapelo Morebudi

The portfolio committee on home affairs has called for an urgent action plan from stakeholder departments at ports of entry in the country, aimed at ensuring adherence to health protocols intended to curb the transmission of Covid-19.

The committee said the state of affairs at border entry posts between SA and Mozambique undermined President Cyril Ramaphosa’s call to close borders to reduce congestion and the high risk of transmissions, with people only allowed to cross in “limited circumstances”.

“Members of the committee were unanimous in their criticism of the operation within the border post, more especially because the authorities are processing a limited number of people as a result of closed borders,” committee chairperson Bongani Bongo said.

After a recent visit to the Lebombo border as part of its oversight programme, the committee found that there was no adherence to basic health protocols such as social distancing and availability of hand sanitisers and other measures to fight Covid-19.

Bongo said it was also worrying that there were limited port health practitioners to test people arriving at the border.

“The committee was astounded to find only three port health officials, as well as concerns around the non-functionality of the speed point machines that impacted on the ability of travellers to pay for the test.”

Bongo said the committee had instructed all stakeholder departments to interact and find solutions to the challenges at the border.

He said there was an urgent need to implement the Border Management Authority (BMA) Act.

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“We need political will to deal with the problem and the urgent implementation of the BMA is required. Also, people must be held accountable for the challenges,” added Bongo.

“The committee has resolved to engage other parliamentary committees that have an oversight role over the departments that operate at the ports of entry, with the aim of producing a consolidated report that highlights challenges and solutions.”

The committee has also called for “strengthened co-operation” between SA and neighbouring countries to eliminate some of the issues.

“We were informed that the initial contributing factor to congestion was that Mozambique initially refused to accept the antigen test as proof of negative result for Covid-19.

“After discussions, Mozambique rescinded their earlier decision, which had an impact on queues,” Bongo said. Meanwhile at the Mbuzini border, the committee said the SA National Defence Force was “curing illegal crossings” into the country.

The committee has invited home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi to its next visit at the Lebombo border.


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