The Democratic Alliance (DA) holds the view that the closure of South Africa’s land borders with neighbouring countries has more to do with the Department of Home Affairs’ (DHA) sheer inability to address the recent chaos at the Beitbridge Border Post, than curbing the spread of the Coronavirus pandemic.
On Monday evening, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of land borders citing the risk of exposure to Covid-19 due to congestion that was making it difficult to enforce health requirements before entry into the country.
While it was evident that the congestion at Beitbridge was bordering on a major Covid and humanitarian crisis, the reality is that it was a crisis brought on by the DHA’s abysmal record in border management and lack of foresight to adequately capacitate the border control facility to process travellers, enforce Covid protocols and screening as well as verifying Covid tests.
The high volume of travel at South Africa’s land border posts are a common occurrence over the festive period, surely the department should have known that the congestion was a possibility in light of Covid protocols and the curfew. The chaos that ensued at Beitbridge was just a symptom of the incompetence, mismanagement and lack of accountability that has become synonymous with Home Affairs over the years.
What makes matters worse is that during the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs’ oversight inspection at the Beitbridge Border Post it was revealed to the Committee that Beitbridge had 368 895 people travelling through its gates in December 2019 and in December 2020 the number was significantly less at only 103 224 travellers.
It was immediately evident that the DHA never had a plan in place to deal with travellers entering and exiting the country, as no plan could be produced and presented to members of Parliament on preventative measures.
The DA is also dismayed after being informed that “the finalisation of the procurement process of one border post will be done within the next few weeks.” This is despite the fact that the “One Stop Border Post Policy” is still out for public comment.
The findings of the oversight inspection are proof that the governments’ decision to close land borders is nothing more than a red herring for Home Affair’s inability to ensure proper border control. This decision will not solve anything but could potentially lend itself to a much deeper humanitarian crisis as some citizens of neighbouring nations are desperate to access much-needed resources and supplies from South Africa to survive.
Instead of prioritising adequate capacity and ensuring that the Department of Home Affairs gets its house in order to ensure safe entry into South Africa, the government decided to kick the can down the road, ignoring the real problem – the incompetence and mismanagement at Home Affairs to manage South Africa’s borders.