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Strict COVID-19 rules making life hell for truck drivers at Lebombo border post

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South African truck drivers returning from Mozambique with empty trucks have been waiting for more than 48 hours in a queue to re-enter the country at the Lebombo Border Post, Corridor Gazette reported.

According to Mozambican Covid-19 regulations, drivers are not allowed to leave their truck cabs, which means that many drivers have been stuck without water, food or functioning ablutions.

Piet van Dyk, managing director of Lebombo Dry Port, mentioned that the issue lies in two areas.”The whole backlog can be solved with cooperation from the SAPS.

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If a SAPS member on duty can help to organise traffic and parking, it will already help the situation,” Van Dyk said. “Private vehicles are regularly parked in the control area, which creates a funnel and delays the process further.”

According to Van Dyk, it is necessary to implement a coordinated parking system that deals with tipper loads and commercial loads in different lanes.

He also mentioned a delay when dealing with the port health questionnaire. “Port health should build a database that includes all the details of freight operators that regularly move through the border.

Once they get to the border, they should then only need to get their temperature taken and asked about their symptoms.

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“The arriving and departing public also stand in the same lines for passport control and the port health questionnaire, which further creates a delay.”

Corridor Gazette spoke to some of the prevailing freight companies in the area about the delay. “At this stage, going into Mozambique is not a problem, but coming back into South Africa takes between 30 and 40 hours per truck after the truck has stopped in the line.

We are not allowed to go through the border to provide our drivers with food or water. It has never been this bad before. It is also the first time that our drivers are not allowed to get out of their cabs.

“Under normal circumstances, one truck does between 18 and 20 cargo drops at the Maputo harbour. At this rate, we will only manage to do about eight cargo drops.

“We have mentioned the problem to border management. There is a WhatsApp group that includes everyone. They either do not respond at all or provide information that is not particularly helpful. At this stage, there are no solutions or plans to find a solution.

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“This backlog has affected our company for the last three to four weeks. Usually, there is a delay going into Mozambique during the Easter weekend and over the Christmas period, but it has never been this bad for trucks returning to South Africa.

The reasons given for the delay vary between Covid-19 and a shortage of staff. The plan that has been implemented does not work at this point, and from what we understand, it cannot be changed,” said the director of one of these freight companies, who wished to remain anonymous.

Upon contacting the management of Lebombo Border, they declined to speak to the media, and when asked if there was a spokesperson who could respond to the media queries, they answered that they did not have one.

According to Linda Grimbeek, operations head of Kruger Lowveld Chamber of Business and Tourism, this backlog could have serious economic implications for the Lowveld.

“If the delay becomes such a problem that drivers start using alternative routes, then we will lose the income injection that comes along with the exports at this border.

At the moment the dollar is very strong, which means that exports are bringing in a lot of income.” Corridor Gazette

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