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Plans to reopen SA land borders at an advanced stage - Border Management Agency

Acting commissioner of the BMA, Gene Ravele, told Parliament the congestion at land ports of entry over the festive season was largely due to insufficient numbers of Health Department staff to carry out PCR tests for COVID-19.

FILE: A South African Police Service officer interacts with a driver who's crossing from Zimbabwe into South Africa using the Beitbridge border post, near Musina, South Africa, on 8 January 2021. Picture: AFP.

CAPE TOWN - Plans to reopen South Africa’s land ports next week are at an advanced stage, according to the Border Management Agency.

Parliament’s Home Affairs portfolio committee was briefed on preparations for the reopening on Tuesday.

The plans were aimed at preventing a repeat of the massive congestion that occurred at some land ports such as Beitbridge, Lebombo and Maseru during December and January.

Acting commissioner at the agency, Gene Ravele, told Parliament that the congestion at land ports of entry over the festive season was largely due to insufficient numbers of Health Department staff to carry out PCR tests for COVID-19.

South Africa closed its land borders on 11 January and intended to reopen them on Monday, 15 February.

FROM THE ARCHIVES: Foreign nationals stranded after SA shuts down borders

“The decision to reopen the land borders rests solely with the National Coronavirus Command Council and the announcement should follow soon, we have been told. So, it is very critical from a point of view of border control and management that we are ready for this important task," Ravele said.

“We have conducted a situational analysis and also looked at what happened in December and January and learned a few important lessons from that.”

Demand for tests was very high as at R170 each, they were much cheaper than what Zimbabwe and Lesotho were charging on their sides of the border.

Ravele said that anxiety over the hard lockdown that Zimbabwe imposed on 5 January caused people to flock to South Africa, many with fake test certificates and with Zimbabwean police and soldiers helping with illegal crossings.

Ravele said that Home Affairs and the Department of Health were continuing to meet over beefing up capacity. Talks were under way with authorities in neighbouring countries to deal with problems.

Plans are also in place to manage truck queues.

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