Pretoria, 22 December 2015 – Over the last 10 days Beitbridge border post in Limpopo has processed at least 17 000 travellers daily.
But this week, the figure has jumped to more than 31 000 per day – thus an additional 14 000 more travellers that have to go through clearance processes per day.
Despite the high volumes in numbers, the process has been smooth and efficient albeit slow, tedious and time consuming. But this is to be expected.
South African ports of entry are often wrongly associated with congestion and bottlenecks, particularly during the festive season when millions of people are travelling.
However, SARS Border Control Customs Unit has put plans, structures and systems into place to make things easier for travellers, especially the aged, pregnant women and children.
This strategic intervention has seen almost 200 staff members volunteer to provide assistance and support at ports of entry like Beitbridge and Lebombo, among others, to ease the pressure and waiting time period for travellers and other visitors.
Other measures put in place include facilitating movement of people, vehicles and cargo and to prevent possible congestion as the increase in traveller movement, coupled with extended hours of operation over this peak period, put resources under severe pressure.
Since the holidays began on 16 December, the average number of people processed at Beitbridge border post specifically, was almost 17 000 per day.
The implementation of the intervention has seen volunteers making things easier for pregnant women, among others.
On the 16th of December 2015 bus travellers entered the public health clinic room accompanying a 4-months pregnant lady at about 10pm. The lady informed the nurses at the health clinic that she is asthmatic and she didn’t bring along her medication.
She was given priority status that saw her escorted her to the immigration counter for immediate passport processing. Soon she departed after all her fellow bus passengers were processed without any incident.
SARS custom officials on the ground are hands on and ready to assist in any way they can. In fact, there has been no incident reported.
This initiative has seen all associated departments and agencies working at border control implement a collaborative programme to speed up processes to be more effective. This is one of the major plans that aims to encourage working together in preparation of the implementation of the single Border Management Agency by December 2016.
But over the months SARS Border Control Custom Unit has escalated its border control measures. In addition to the regular support provided at Beitbridge and Lebombo borders over the festive season, this year additional staff has also been deployed at the borders of Lesotho (Maseru Bridge, Ficksburg and Quachas Nek) and North West Province (Kopfontein and Ramabatlabama) to ensure efficient Customs operations.
The SARS volunteers has helped with critical functional areas, such as traffic management in and outside the control area; one-stop processing areas, scanners and effective exception handling processes. These functions have contributed to efficient clearance of travellers and goods, and manage excessive queuing and long waiting times, while maintaining the Customs mandate at a high delivery service standard.
The initiative forms part of a wider government programme involving a number of government institutions, and is co-ordinated by the Border Control Operational Co-ordinating Committee (BCOCC).