Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi on 24 December 2020 said the crisis at the Beitbridge Border post was caused by truck drivers “without the correct documentation”. The RFA believes it is due to new COVID-19 regulations.
Following his statement, the Road Freight Association (RFA) and the Technical Service Provider Association (TSPA) rejected Minister Aaron Motsoaledi’s assertion. TSPA spokesperson Louise Wiggett explained why:
“The TSPA is responsible for providing software and technical services to trade, the clearing and forwarding industry and other parties in the international and logistical supply chain. We have watched the Beitbridge saga unfolding with increasing concern. Not only is the humanitarian crisis at the border of an enormous scale, but the impact on cross-border trade is catastrophic”.
As Truck and Freight reported, Wiggett said the pre-clearing of customs and manifest declarations follows a well-embedded process in collaboration with SARS which has been adhered to for the past decade.
Wiggett explains that “SARS has confirmed to the RFA and TSPA that the level of pre-clearing of the road freight declarations is as high as 99%, and that this has consistently been achieved year after year”.
In addition, RFA’s Chief Executive Gavin Kelly corroborated Wiggett’s statement, and confirmed that trucks “are required by SARS to pre-clear before they reach the border post”. According to Kelly:
“It is obvious that the cause of these horrendous delays at the border post are as a result of the new COVID-19 regulations introduced on 3 December 2020. Stringent testing requirements without the necessary infrastructure, as well as the curfews, are creating huge bottlenecks”.
Kelly added that the Beitbridge Border post situation is dire: Lives have been lost and many queueing at the border post are languishing without food, water, and medical supplies.
Moreover, the situation at Beitbridge has cost the road freight industry close to R35 million already. He urged the government “to act quickly if the humanitarian and business catastrophe is to be averted”.
Five travellers have passed away while waiting at the Beitbridge border post: four truck drivers and a Zimbabwean woman who died while waiting on a bus.
Eyewitnesses explained that she “complained of fatigue and was “feeling dizzy”. The bus driver told reporters that the woman approached him to ask if she could exit the bus “because it was hot and she needed fresh air”.
She collapsed while exiting the bus, and passengers rushed to assist her. Other passengers “held her and gave her water”. Even though her condition improved, she was unable to remain upright when she returned.
“Some of the ladies in the bus started praying for her and pouring water on her head and giving her some water to drink. As time went by, she lost consciousness and passed away.”Bus driver