THE delays at the Beitbridge border post in recent weeks, during which some people died, should never happen again, the Road Freight Association said on Monday.
The association said since the department of health removed a requirement for truck drivers to be tested for Covid-19 at Beitbridge, the queues of traffic had reduced significantly – from 20km long to less than 5km over the past three days.
Four truck drivers and a female bus passenger died during the congestion experienced at the border post between SA and Zimbabwe and there were numerous cases of drivers who collapsed due to heat and a lack of water while waiting to cross.
The association said though queues had reduced significantly, the situation was not fully resolved.
“We are relieved that the queues are far shorter, but the crisis is not over yet. The deaths could have been easily avoided,” said the association’s CEO Gavin Kelly.
He said the border was bustling every festive season as foreigners working in SA returned home for the holidays.
“To prevent this crisis from happening again, there needs to be joint co-ordination between the role players involved at the border, including the private sector. The [association] is a critical stakeholder in this supply chain and will actively support a body that is put together to address the chaos at the border post,” Kelly said.
He argued that truck drivers were not to blame for the recent delays.
The cost of delays at the border post is roughly R5,000 per truck per day. This amounts to R250,000 per day per kilometre of traffic queue.
“That the length of the queues has been reduced by 75% since Covid-19 testing for truck drivers at the border post has been lifted, is proof of this.
“Recent statements from the minister of health and the parliament oversight committee of home affairs blaming truck drivers are simply not true.”
Kelly said a lack of planning by the departments of health and home affairs was the reason for the situation at the border.
He said before transporters could move to the border, they had to complete pre-clearing and have valid tests for drivers.
Kelly said these requirements from the SA Revenue Service had been in place for years and Sars had noted that more than 95% of transporters crossing at Beitbridge were, and remained, compliant.
Kelly said Beitbridge was a critical enabler of trade and business in Africa.
“The cost of delays at the border post is roughly R5,000 per truck per day. This amounts to R250,000 per day per kilometre of traffic queue. This is unsustainable, unnecessary and unacceptable,” he added.