Home Affairs committee wants urgent action on ports of entry
The portfolio committee on Home Affairs has called for an urgent action plan from stakeholder departments at ports of entry that was aimed at ensuring adherence to health protocols to curb the transmission of Covid-19.
The committee made the call after an oversight visit to the Lebombo port of entry between South Africa and Mozambique on Thursday to assess operations at the border following humanitarian and health risks evidenced in the last two months there.
In a statement, committee chairperson Bongani Bongo said they were dismayed with the state of affairs at the Lebombo port of entry.
Bongo said the state of affairs undermined the call by President Cyril Ramaphosa to close the borders in order to reduce congestion and the high risk of transmissions.
“Members of the committee were unanimous in their criticism of the operation within the border post, more especially because the authorities are processing a limited number of people as a result of closed borders,” he said.
Bongo said the committee had during its visit found that there was no adherence to basic health protocols such as social distancing and availability of hand sanitisers.
He said also worrying was the limited number of port health practitioners to test people arriving at the border, a problem which extended the period of stay at the border and has a potential of being a super-spreader.
“The committee was astounded to find only three port health officials as well as concerns around the non-functionality of the speed point machines that impacted on the ability of travellers to pay for the test,” Bongo said.
He also said the committee has instructed all the stakeholder departments to interact and find solutions to the challenges experienced at the border.
Bongo stated that the state of affairs at the Lebombo border highlighted the urgent need to implement the Border Management Authority (BMA) as a tool to ensure co-ordination, command and control as well as to ensure accountability.
“We need political will to deal with the problem and the urgent implementation of the BMA is required. Also, people must be held accountable for the challenges."
He said the committee has resolved to invite the Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to their next meeting to account on the operations at Lebombo since the closure of the borders.
"The lack of co-ordination has also been highlighted as a matter that requires urgent attention as stakeholders have different reporting lines.
"On that basis, the committee has resolved to engage other parliamentary committees that have an oversight role over the departments that operate at the ports of entry with the aim of producing a consolidated report that highlights challenges and solutions."
Bongo also said the committee has also called for strengthened co-operation between South Africa and neighbouring countries to eliminate some of the prevailing teething challenges.
“We were informed that the initial contributing factor to congestion was the fact that Mozambique, initially refused to accept antigen tests as proof of negative result for Covid-19. After discussions, Mozambique rescinded their earlier decision which had an impact on queues,” he said.
In another development, Bongo said the committee welcomed the work of the South African National Defence Force in curbing illegal crossings into South Africa despite the daunting task they face daily.
"The committee calls for strengthening of operations aimed at preventing illegal crossings into South Africa," he said after the committee's visit to Mbuzini.