The queues of trucks at the Lebombo border crossing between South Africa and Mozambique are now stretching more than 25 km, in temperatures often exceeding 32 ˚C, says the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (Saaff).
“This is owing to Covid-19 protocols that have been implemented by the South African government.”
Fesarta and Saaff say they again call on government to work more closely with transport bodies when implementing these protocols, in order to alleviate the “devastating effect on businesses and the economy at large”.
“This is a complete and utter disaster for our business – and for many others,” says Bensco Logistics MD Bernard Lunga.
“Our productivity has plummeted by 75% since the queues started. Under normal circumstances each of our trucks moves four loads in six days. Currently, they have only moved one load in five days.”
Bensco Logistics is a small trucking company operating a fleet of 25 trucks transporting chrome.
Lunga adds that for the business to operate sustainably, each truck needs to make a delivery within 36 hour. If they exceed this time, the trips are not profitable.
“From 1 December up until 6 January, we have lost 20 days’ productivity as a result of the border post delays,” he says.
“Our trucks are all stuck on the Mozambique side. Three of them have not moved in four days. The other seven off-loaded yesterday and they are in a queue 17 km from the border. We are simply unable to generate revenue and risk being unable to pay our creditors if this continues. We may even have to close our business.”
Saaff and Fesarta say delays are attributed mainly to Covid-19 testing done on the South African side of the border.
A shortage of manpower is also exacerbating the situation, however, as a number of staff from the Departments of Home Affairs and Port Health have reportedly contracted Covid-19 in recent weeks.
“We support the requirement for the testing to be done, but border personnel are overwhelmed and cannot cope with the situation,” says Fesarta CEO Mike Fitzmaurice.
“What is more concerning is that they have also stated that the additional manpower promised by the Minister of Home Affairs has not materialised.”
Added to this is the four-hour delay when a positive case is detected, as the border is closed to be disinfected. No activity takes place during this time.
“To remove the congestion, the movement of cargo (trucks) needs to be separated from other traffic, such as passenger cars, buses and pedestrians,” says Saaff chairperson Dr Juanita Maree.
“This will enable the free flow of vehicles and passengers. Ninety per cent of the trucks coming back into South Africa from Mozambique have no loads: they should be able to enter and exit the border post seamlessly.”
“Fesarta and Saaff reiterate their recent request for a public-private partnership (PPP) to be formed between governments, their agencies and the private sector [to help facilitate cross-border trade],” says Maree.
“This will enable us to prevent similar disasters from occurring. With the African Continental Free Trade Agreement having come into effect on 1 January, the PPP is now more crucial than ever.”