The recent border delays sharply put focus on South Africa trade statistics with bordering countries Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho and Namibia (BELN).
According to the South African Revenue Service (SARS) recent trade statistics, South Africa recorded a trade surplus of R36.72 billion in November 2020.
“The year-to-date (01 January to 30 November 2020) trade surplus of R238.33 billion is an improvement from the R9.18 billion surplus for the comparable period in 2019. Exports increased by 18.9% year-on-year whilst imports declined by 7.7% over the same period.”
During October, South Africa exported R789 million worth of vegetables products in value to BELN countries experiencing an 8% jump in November at R849 million.
Before December holidays, FNB had recorded that the fruits and vegetables industry did exceedingly well in the fourth quarter of 2020.
However, the continued delays in the six busiest South African borders have raised consternation with freight associations calling for the President of South Africa to intervene especially concerning the Beitbridge border post.
According to the Home Affairs department, SA had fully automated SARS systems which were capable of processing trucks per hour on any one day.
“Zimbabwe systems are largely manual and can process only 20 trucks per hour, at most 30 at peak performance. The South Africa side cannot send more trucks than the Zimbabwean can handle.” said Minister Aaron Motsoaledi
Furthermore, the continual delays were found to be compounded by Botswana’s strict lockdown regulations and curfews, which made it unprofitable for trucking companies to use the Bostwana Groblersbrug post.
Only 968 trucks passed through Groblersburg in 27 December 2020 as compared to 2019 at 6 706 trucks according SARS border statistics.
Motsoaledi added: “Trucking companies diverted their trucks away from Groblersbrug to Beitbridge because they did not accept the waiting times imposed by the Covid-19 protocols in Botswana.”
Freight Associations here and in neighbouring countries complained off the delays at the borders causing productivity backlogs which could open avenues in defaulting on employee and creditor payments.
With the recent announcement that the African countries could start trading under the Africa Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA), introspecting on border trade corridors was becoming an imperative task for SACU members.
SADC recently launched the Tripartite Transport and Transit Facilitation Programme (TTTFP) which aimed to harmonise road transport policies, laws and systems in Eastern and Southern Africa.
“The objectives of the TTTFP are to develop and implement harmonised road transport policies, laws, regulations and standards for efficient cross border road transport, transit and logistics services, systems and procedures with a view to reducing transport costs across the mainland countries of the SADC, COMESA and EAC region and facilitate trade.”