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Unrenewed Port Health contracts put brakes on borders

Reliable information received by Freight News has confirmed that the non-availability of Port Health staff, resulting in several land borders closing, is because of contracts not being renewed with the community health workers required to do the work. This transpired from a meeting that was held earlier today between a land border working group and the South African Revenue Service (SARS). According to a source who requested to remain anonymous but who is known to Freight News, the Sars officials who attended the meeting said they were at their wits’ end as they had failed in their attempts to resolve the issue through engagements with the departments of health and home affairs, and the Border Management Authority. The Sars officials said that they had been told that the contract issue was “not their problem”. While Freight News spoke to the source at 14:15 today, a message was circulated by the Transit Assistance Bureau saying: “It is with regret to inform you that Skilpadshek Port of Entry will operate between 06h00 and 18h00 tomorrow, Saturday, and Sunday due to unavailability of Port Health officials from 18h00 till midnight.” It’s not the first time in recent times that the Skilpadshek border into Botswana on South Africa’s N4 highway has been affected by Port Health officials not being available. Yesterday, Mike Fitzmaurice of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta) said apart from the crucial crossing on the Trans-Kalahari Corridor, Ramatlabama, Kopfontein and Groblersbrug – all into Botswana – had been affected.

The border posts of Vioolsdrift and Nakop into Namibia have also had to close in recent days because of the Port Health staffing issue. When the story broke, the Road Freight Association (RFA) said it was regrettable that expired contracts could stand in the way of something as important as cross-border trade. “It doesn’t bode well for the future that the country can be held to ransom by a contract not being renewed and that the relevant border officials would rather see trade stop than find a resolution.” The RFA added that if no progress was made by next week, “all of South Africa’s land borders risk closure because of these contracts not being renewed”.

by Eugene Goddard - freightnews

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