Business calls for consultation on border issues

MASERU — The Private Sector Foundation of Lesotho (PSFL) says the government should work closely with the business sector to prevent a repeat of last week’s chaos at Maseru Bridge border post.

South Africa last week barred thousands of Basotho from crossing into the country using temporary travel documents sparking chaos at the main border post.

It also cancelled the special six-month permit that allowed individuals to cross into the country without having their passports scanned.

The decision resulted in chaos at the border with motorists spending as much as four hours waiting in queues to be cleared by customs and immigration officials.

In an interview with the Lesotho Times on Monday, PSFL president, Osman Moosa, said although the situation had improved significantly the business community should be told in advance for them to plan for such inconveniences.

“Even though the situation is now more stable, it did disrupt business in the country. Some of the losses are irreversible,” said Moosa.

The foundation said the chaos at the border had seriously affected the transport and passenger transport business sector.

The foundation represents the business community in Lesotho and acts as the link between the private sector and the government of Lesotho.

In a statement released last Thursday, the foundation said the new restrictions had adversely affected business between the two countries.

“The Lesotho passenger and freight transportation business has been adversely affected where drivers who have been using temporary travel documents are now unable to cross the border until they obtain passports.

“Freight transport that carries Lesotho’s major economic earner, textiles, destined for shipping at South African ports has also been delayed by long queues as even drivers with passports and are now required to scan their passports,” Moosa said.

Lesotho exports all its products through South Africa.

The foundation said the border crisis had happened at a critical time when players in the hospitality sector were hoping to cash in on World Cup tourists.

Although he could not quantify their losses, Moosa was sure that the situation was escalating to a point that businesses could have lost “hundreds of thousands of maloti”.

“We are happy that the situation at the borders is now stable and we would like to commend the government for responding to the situation,” he said.

Moosa said Basotho should be more patriotic towards their country and focus on the development of the local economy.

“Because of corruption some foreigners were able to obtain passports and they have used them to commit crimes.

“These are some of the things that slow down our economic development,” he said.

Truck drivers who spoke to the Lesotho Times yesterday said the border chaos had seriously affected their operations.

“We operate on a tight schedule as the ships that carry these goods work on time. We spent a long time in the queues, up to four hours either end. This brought some pressure on us as we had to meet our tight deadlines,” a truck driver who refused to be named said.

He said a trip to Cape Town harbour takes 17 hours and any delays would result in them missing their targets.

Petros Moloi, another truck driver, said the World Cup had resulted in stringent controls at the Maseru border.

“It takes about two or more hours at the border which is a tiresome process,” Moloi said.

Another truck driver said the situation at the Maseru Bridge border post had worsened since the start of the World Cup last Friday.

He said the whole process was quite frustrating for transporters.

“Ever since these long lines started we have had to endure long delays at the border.

“We now take longer to deliver our goods. Our bosses and clients are all frustrated by the situation. But nothing can be done about it,” he said.

A taxi driver on the South African side of the border also complained about decreased business opportunities as a result of the border restrictions.

“Most of our passengers from Lesotho use temporary permits and now that they cannot cross into South Africa, business has been really down,” he said.

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