SOUTH Africa has extended operating times at its border posts and deployed 425 additional staff in anticipation of greater volumes of travelers from Lesotho and other countries during the 2018/19 festive season.
These and other measures, including the beefing up of security at the ports of entry to curb illegal movements, were recently announced by the new Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele.
Mr Cwele said the new measures were necessary in the context of the festive season “which ranks among our peak periods annually” and “this ushers in a period of heightened movement across our ports of entry”.
The minister also revealed that in the last festive season Lesotho recorded the highest number of travellers to South Africa with approximately 800 000 arrivals.
“The Department of Home Affairs would like to confirm its readiness to handle increased volumes of travellers at ports of entry in particular the air and land ports,” Mr Cwele said in a recent statement.
“This increase in movement of people and goods across borders is due to the inflow and outflow of travellers of various categories (tourists, cross-border workers, business, academic and educational activities). The movements we facilitate into and out of South Africa tend to peak during the festive season, school holidays and the Easter period.
“It is imperative that ports of entry are adequately prepared to facilitate traveller movement and to curb illegal movement and transgressions. Security dynamics and risks during peak periods include fraudulent documents, undocumented travellers and poor access control due to congested roads, hence we plan meticulously for ports and borderline activities with other law enforcement agencies.
Mr Cwele revealed that in preparation for the 2018/19 festive season the information technology team of his ministry was currently conducting a “clean sweep operation to ensure that all its equipment is in a good condition at our ports of entry to ensure optimal functioning”.
“This includes testing of all computers and scanners. The team is also setting up overflow areas for processing of travellers in Maseru Bridge, Lebombo and Beit Bridge (on the border with Zimbabwe) to cater for the volumes expected. A team of information technology support staff will remain at the high-volume ports of entry from 5 December 2018 to 9 January 2019 to provide on-site support.”
The minister further revealed that “the Department of Home Affairs will deploy 425 additional staff at busiest ports” and their operational hours will be extended at various periods until the 9th of January when schools re-open in South Africa.
The operational time for the Qacha’s Nek border which normally operates from 6am to 8pm has been increased by three hours from 21 to 24 December 2018.
The Tellebridge which normally operates from 6am to 10 pm will open at 5pm and close at 11pm on 14 December and again from 21 to 24 December 2018.
The Van Rooyenshek and the Calendonspoort border posts in the Free State province which normally opens at 6am to 10pm will open at 6am and close at midnight on 14 December and open for 24 hours on Christmas Eve.
Meanwhile, Lesotho topped arrivals into South Africa in the 2017/18 festive season.
“In the 2017/18 festive season, a total of 8 468 262 movements was captured, comprising arrivals and departures of citizens and foreigners. Of these, 2 304 449 were citizens’ movements and 6 163 813 were foreigners’ movements.
“The highest arrivals from the SADC region were from Lesotho, at 758 519, followed by Zimbabwe (712 688 people), Mozambique (398 684), Swaziland (306 682) and Botswana (256 793). The highest movements were from Africa, with over 7 million movements recorded,” said Mr Cwele.