Transport and freight bodies are calling on government for a public-private partnership (PPP) to prevent future disasters similar to the chaos taking place at the Beitbridge border post on the Zimbabwe border.
The call comes from the Federation of Eastern and Southern African Road Transport Associations (FESARTA) and the South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) – key players in the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA). The organisations point out that the losses of both human life and the cost of delays at Beitbridge could have been prevented.
“Government did not consult with industry bodies: it took a unilateral decision to impose stringent Covid-19 testing at the border posts, which resulted in more than 20 kilometre queues on both sides of the border. They only took heed of our proposals once the situation became dire,” says FESARTA CEo Mike Fitzmaurice.
The cost to South Africa so far has been five deaths and losses of up to R2-billion.
“These tragic consequences followed after our warnings and advice on what could be done to avoid congestion, were ignored. The need to work together is essential to ensure that this does not happen again”.
SAAFF Chairperson Dr Juanita Maree says that in preparation for the Africa Continental Free Trade Agreement (AfCFTA) commencing in less than a week, action needs to be taken urgently to ensure the smooth flow of goods and people through all borders under this treaty and Beitbridge in particular.
“The Agreement is a phenomenal, once in a lifetime opportunity to bring 30 million people out of extreme poverty and to raise the incomes of 68 million others who live on less than $5.50 per day. Municipalities, government agencies and departments, as well as the private sector on both sides of the border need to collaborate to create capacity and efficiencies to ensure that there are no bottlenecks at the border, so that much-needed economic growth can take place and trade and business can flourish.”
“Trade facilitation measures that cut red tape, ease movement in a secure environment to simplify customs procedures in the AfCFTA framework will help drive US$292 billion of the US$450 billion in potential income gains,” she explains.
Dr Maree says that SAAFF has so far provided 3 000 litres of water to exhausted drivers stuck in the border queue under the guidance of SAAFF’s Border Portfolio Manager, Lin Botha and her capable team. The team is also organising other essentials at the Border as on-going support.
“A well-established PPP will prevent similar disasters in the future given the critical role the trucking and freight industry play in facilitating AfCFTA’s infrastructure development and trade with transport is the ultimate enabler,” Maree concludes.