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Home Affairs intervenes in Beitbridge gridlock

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Truck drivers who have spent days at the post say they have been left to fend for themselves and have become the targets of numerous robberies.

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A QUEUE of trucks and travellers spanning a few kilometres at the Beitbridge border post between South Africa and Zimbabwe has prompted Parliament’s portfolio committee on home affairs to take up the task of resolving the issue.

The chairperson of the committee, advocate Bongani Bongo, on Thursday called for urgent intervention at the border post.

This comes after reports of numerous people stuck at the border post for several days because of a traffic backlog.

The bumper-to-bumper traffic at Beitbridge, according to Bongo, is the result of “stringent” health checks put in place to contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Although congestion at the Beitbridge post during the festive season is not unusual, the second wave of Covid-19 in South Africa is adding fuel to the fire.

South Africa’s cumulative positive Covid-19 case count rose to 954,258 on Wednesday, with 14,046 new cases since the last count. The death toll is 25,657.

“All provinces, with the exception of the Eastern Cape, continue to report increases in their cases, with KwaZulu-Natal, Western Cape and Gauteng provinces registering the largest increases and comprising 81% of the new cases today (30%, 28% and 23% respectively),” the Department of Health said on Wednesday.

According to reports, any person intending to cross the border must produce a negative Covid-19 test no older than 72 hours in order to be allowed across.

Travellers who have come from distant parts of the country may also experience difficulty at the border post due to their test results expiring.

Truck drivers who have spent days at the post said they have been left to fend for themselves while waiting to be screened and have become the targets of numerous robberies.

The secretary of the All Truck Drivers Foundation in Gauteng, Mandla Mngomezulu, said that in a space of a week he has heard of 10 incidents in which drivers were robbed of their cellphones and clothes at night.

Mngomezulu said that he spent five days at the border post last week, which was largely due to screening being conducted.

Bongo said that there was an urgent need to put the Border Management Authority (BMA) into operation.

The aim of the BMA is to optimise border control by providing a single authority to regulate and oversee border posts around the country. The BMA will, however, continue to work with government agencies.

Bongo said he was hopeful the government would resolve the issues at the border crossing.

– African News Agency (ANA)

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