15 January 2021
PRETORIA- The Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs is dismayed by the state of affairs at the Lebombo Port of entry between South Africa and Mozambique. The state of affairs, according to the committee undermines the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to close the borders in order to reduce congestion and the high risk of transmissions.
The committee has called for an urgent action plan from stakeholder departments at ports of entry aimed at ensuring adherence to health protocols that are intended to curb the transmission of Covid-19.
“Members of the committee were unanimous in their criticism of the operation within the border post, more especially because the authorities are processing limited number of people as a result of closed borders,” said Adv Bongani Bongo, the Chairperson of the committee.
Bongo said, “The committee visited the border as part of its oversight programme to assess operations at the border following humanitarian and health risks evidenced in the last two months at those borders. On Thursday the committee found that there was no adherence to basic health protocols such as social distancing and availability of hand sanitizers, measures that are scientifically proven to be the best tools in the fight against Covid-19.”
Also worrying was, “The limited port health practitioners to test people arriving at the border, a problem which extended the period of stay at the border and which has a potential of being a super spreader.”
“The committee was astounded to find only three port health officials as well as concerns around the non-functionality of the speed point machines that impacted on the ability of travellers to pay for the test,” Bongo emphasised.
The committee has instructed all the stakeholder departments to interact and find solutions to the challenges experienced at the border and it gave them until the end of business (Thursday) to resolve the matter, and submit a detailed report on the plan of action.
“The state of affairs at the border highlighted the need for urgent need to implement the Border Management Authority (BMA) as a tool to ensure coordination and command and control as well as to ensure accountability.”
“We need political will to deal with the problem and the urgent implementation of the BMA is required. Also, people must be held accountable for the challenges.” said Bongo.
The committee has resolved to invite the Minister of Home Affairs to its next meeting to account on the operations at Lebombo since the closure of the borders.
The lack of coordination has also been highlighted as a matter that requires urgent attention as stakeholders have different reporting lines. On that basis, the committee has resolved to engage other parliamentary committees that have an oversight role over the departments that operate at the ports of entry with the aim of producing a consolidated report that highlights challenges and solutions.
The committee has also called for strengthened cooperation between South Africa and the neighbouring countries to eliminate some of the prevailing teething challenges.
“We were informed that the initial contributing factor to congestion was the fact that Mozambique, initially refused to accept antigen test as proof of negative result for Covid-19. After discussions, Mozambique rescinded their earlier decision which had an impact on queues,” Bongo said.
Regarding the visit to Mbuzini, the committee welcomes the work of the South African National Defence Force in curing illegal crossings into South Africa despite the daunting task they face daily. The committee calls for strengthening of operations aimed at preventing illegal crossings into South Africa.