Umm Muhammed Umar
The South African Association of Freight Forwarders and the Minerals Council of South Africa are calling on government to take urgent steps to address severe congestion at the Lebombo/Ressano Garcia border post on the Maputo Corridor. The congestion has cost trucking companies R1.3 billion in lost revenue thus far this year. This comes in the wake of long delays in border crossing times, with waits of more than three days in recent weeks, exacerbating a crisis that has been ongoing since the beginning of August 2021. Radio Islam spoke to Maputo Corridor representative, Barbara Momen, who has worked on the Corridor since 2006.
Momen said that the situation was the worst that she had ever seen. She said that what was really significant was the economic losses South Africa was sustaining daily as a result. Regarding the bearing that the pandemic had on the bottleneck at the border, Momen said, “I think we’re over the worst in terms of the COVID-19 challenges, in that during 2020, specifically we had a number of days with the border closed due to infections, and needing to be sanitized and so on.” She added, “we’ve seen a remarkable pickup of transit cargo moving to the port of Maputo since the beginning of this year, but I think the greatest challenge at the moment is that we have a border post that operates from 6am until 22H00 hours and a port that operates 24/7, so you’ve got landside logistics that are way out of sync with the port side issues.” Momen said that the border needed to operate around the clock. While that had been on the cards since 2007, it has still not, 14 years later, been implemented.
The Corridor Management Institution that operated until 2019, had raised the issue of the border times at every available platform, but while Mozambique had been ready to do so since 2010, South Africa has not been as cooperative. Momen said that this has been, “affecting the economy of the region in dramatic ways. Not only loss of revenue to the transport companies, but we’ve seen a hugely compromised level of ability of mines to get the cargo to the clients.” Memon said there had been a lack of intentional, bilateral talks for the past 6 years.
The dysfunctionality of the rail service, due to copper theft, has driven most of the cargo to road, because it’s more reliable and in some instances, more cost effective economically. There is also a dysfunctional port in Richards Bay, which poses a challenge as additional volumes of traffic would be diverted from Richards Bay to the Corridor. Momen said, “I shudder to think what will happen unless we have a clear programme of action from our government to address the bilateral engagements at the highest level, and the 24-hour operation.” She further stressed, “And apart from which, at the present moment we have a human humanitarian crisis with drivers sitting in a truck for three days waiting to cross the border. And they no ablution facilities, no food, no water and this has a dramatic impact, apart from the economic impact.”