……article 20 June 2020…….
The road to Africa: six new border facilities….
Department of Home Affairs has briefed Parliament on the final plan for the construction of six new modern facilities at South Africa’s border posts, part of a major continental plan to improve cross border trade in the SADC region. The focus at present is on issues involving the movement of goods transported by road. This is in the absence of common rail networks and the lack of development by Transnet in the region.
This month Minister of Home Affairs, Aaron Motsoaledi and Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza accompanied by Jackson McKay, the Home Affairs DG, posted MPs of the Transport Committee on the latest position on development, a process which has until now been limping through both Parliament and the Department of Home Affairs for the last three years primarily due to changes in Cabinet, the difficulty of defining responsibilities between home affairs, treasury, public works, defence, police and SARS.
Ideas on paper
However, the enthusiasm of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) for the project remains undiminished, it seems. Most in business agree to the concept but providing it improves delivery, eases trade and is as far as possible, corruption proof. In addition, it is acknowledged by most that fully computerised customs posts are a logical answer but implementing the work so far in this area by both home affairs and treasury needs careful handling, MPs have said
The co-ordination in external affairs of state between some seven SADC countries have added to the gargantuan task, this being now the ladder to climb.
The Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill was proposed to Parliament in 2015 by the then Home Affairs minister, Malusi Gigaba, and at the time a strong suspicion was harboured by business and industry that the ulterior motives of the Bill’s tabling had much to do with the illness of state capture revelations at the time being exposed.
Many thoughts were expressed around accusations of “empire building” by DHA and the very thought of combining customs collection with immigration, complemented by adding defence and security, led to raised eyebrows amongst opposition MPs and some sections of industry.
It became apparent also that as early as 2013, MOUs were struck up between SAPS, SADNF and DHA, totally without the knowledge of Parliament on the staffing of a combined function to police borders, primarily with an aim of controlling immigration. These queries continued for the period that Gigaba was promoted to Minister of Finance by Zuma.
Hands of the money
Nevertheless, any idea of a further MOU between National Treasury and DHA was totally rejected by treasury officials. Within weeks of the Bill being first tabled in Parliament under the aegis of the Fifth Parliament, Ismail Momoniat of Treasury expressed the Minister of Finance’s view to MPs that any hopes that DHA had of their new BMA staff being involved with tax matters and customs dues would be rejected in its entirety.
At that point the Bill was still particularly loose and unacceptable as far as its wording was concerned but it was still agreed by Parliament that, in a broader sense, trade corridors had to be improved. Injected into the discussions during 2017 was Jacob Zuma’s eleventh cabinet change in the home affairs portfolio, past minister Ayanda Dlodlo, and as a person totally unaware of trade issue implications and the whole concept bogged down, beset as it was with refugee and immigration matters.
As time passed the task of opening up diplomatic and trade relationships in Africa seemed to become more evident. The project then fell to the now incumbent Minister Aaron Motsoaledi who has started pushing for better trade relationships and has begun forcing through the mechanics of trade mechanics and infrastructure. With neighbouring relationships now coming to the fore under President Ramaphosa as African Union chair, to some extent SADC issues are looking up but still manacled by economic collapse in both Zimbabwe and Mozambique.
The core of ANC thinking, like so many other radical African movements, focuses but little in economic terms on international trade and relationships and nowhere in this area has this been more evident than in the total lacking of debate during parliamentary meetings. No serious consideration of development on the subject of road and rail links in Southern Africa has arisen at all or any real focus on the development of port authority controls and handling facility development for anything other than domestic reasons. Most SADC countries complain of Durban Port “bottlenecks”.
In the past, such matters were left to a crumbling Transnet and under Jacob Zuma this position deteriorated to its worst ever in the history of South Africa, but now, in 2019, the Bill was re-tabled in the new Parliament of Cyril Ramaphosa and the ever busy Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi seems to have rescued to some extent the situation, coupled with efforts by the Ministry of Tran
sport with the Economic Regulation of Transport Bill, aiming at pricing controls and transport management, which Bill is being processed by the parliamentary transport committee.
Refugees under focus
During the recent passage of the BMA Bill, DG of Home Affairs, Jackson Mackay, gave it his best in a presentation on the subject to MPs and one had to admire what has been achieved in such a negative environment. As a result of this portfolio committee meeting, the concept is now officially approved by Parliament, with MPs now calling for regular updates on the new “one stop border posts”, or OSBs, which will be at Beitbridge, Lebombo, Maseru Bridge, Kopfontein, Ficksburg and Oshoek.
Jackson Mackay’s presentation was supported by the 2017173-page report developed by the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency (C-BRTA) which had provided a bench-marking exercise along the highly trafficked road transport corridors in the west and east Central African regions, all with a view of finding solutions to opening up trade movement to and from South Africa.
Essentially, the “challenges” established, Mackay said, were congestion, delays at borders, and long journey turnaround times, all of which reduced safety and high cost of doing business, such factors impeding inter-regional trade. Also, trade between the partnering countries stands at only 12% of the economic potential of the region. Urgent intervention was called for by the report, Mackay said, especially given the fact that cross-border road transport carries over 80% of the total goods that are traded in the region.
The report concluded that the status-quo cannot be left to perpetuate if SADC was to achieve its set socio-economic and developmental objectives without implementing the multilateral cross-border road transport arrangements. This has now been achieved, MacKay said, in the form of the Border Management Authority, already partially staffed. Essential now is the transformation of prioritised border posts into “One Stop Border Posts” (OSBs) to address “the hard and soft infrastructure challenges experienced at commercial border posts along strategic regional corridors”.
DG MacKay said that South Africa currently had an extraordinary number of border points at 72 in all. Fifty-three of these were on land, eleven airports and eight seaports. Six of these had been officially selected as OSBs and were all road border crossing.The idea is at these crossings transport of goods is no longer stopped twice as previously, once for each country, but only once by the BMA on behalf of both nations. A speedy and consolidated service is to be installed.
MacKay closed with the news that the project had been was registered with National Treasury (NT) as a private-public sector partnership and five consortia had pre-qualified in 2018 tenders to construct the OSBs, Treasury having granted approval to commence the request for proposals.
Budgets are to be submitted to Treasury in the 2020/21 financial year, MacKay said, and that the developers of each port of entry would be appointed by the end of the financial year. The key principle in all planning was “traffic segmentation, where the plans would have separate lanes for cargo, freight, general cars and for vehicles that needed to have goods declared, all only once”.
SA and Zimbabwe had already started preparing an OSB procedure manual for operations on their mutual border, MacKay said, and agreement had been reached with Botswana. Construction is to start 2022-2024 on all six ports of entry and “the concessionary period” of start-up operations would be in the years 2024-2044, he concluded.