More traffic officials for ‘Maputo Corridor’ queue considered

More traffic officials for ‘Maputo Corridor’ queue considered

August 7, 2023

Mpumalanga’s Department of Roads and Transport will look at making more traffic officials available for overtime duty in managing tipper truck build-up at South Africa’s Lebombo border with Mozambique.

This has emerged after a meeting that was held in Komatipoort last week between private-sector stakeholders and the province’s chief director of transport regulation, John Nkuna.

According to an anonymous source privy to what was discussed at Thursday’s meeting, Nkuna said he’d look at making additional personnel available from Wednesday to Saturday, the busiest time on the N4 to the Port of Maputo, when hundreds of ore-carrying trucks queue for several kilometres to cross into Mozambique.

But Nkuna had made it clear that money was an issue, the source said.

“The problem is there is no budget for paying traffic police overtime. About two months ago there were officials on the road after hours, costing about R2.3 million in overtime, money the traffic department doesn’t have. The overtime had to be paid out of another budget.”

The source said it was good to have finally had an opportunity to discuss the situation at the border with Nkuna, the first time he had attended one of the regular public-private meetings that have been held in Komatipoort to ease congestion on the “Maputo Corridor”.

The source said the meeting had been called by taxi organisations who continued to help regulate the buildup of trucks after hours when traffic officials withdraw from working on the N4, mainly because of not getting paid and fearing for their safety when criminals prey on drivers forced to spend the night in their trucks.

Since the taxi associations from as far afield as Gauteng and Emalahleni (Witbank) have got involved, a semblance of order has been restored to the queue, but the sjambok force often meted out to drivers trying to skip the queue while others are sleeping in their trucks is far from ideal.

In one recent incident, a truck driver apparently pulled a gun when he felt threatened by the “taxi marshals”, resulting in shots being fired.

But the taxi associations appear to be eager to withdraw from the border.

The source said the marshals at times didn’t mince words with Nkuna.

“They said: ‘You must get your house in order, get more people on the road and do your job. It’s not our job to do your job.’”

Nkuna apparently was unaware of the seriousness of truck congestion at Lebombo, and at the beginning of the meeting apparently asked what the real problem was.

The source added that it was made very clear that Nkuna had not been properly informed about what was happening on the N4 at Komatipoort, when trucks often queue as far as Hectorspruit, 32 kilometres away from the once-tranquil border town.

That was the case last week, the source said.

Apparently, the queue has since shrunk substantially, thanks to the implementation of a new system at the border, about which not much is known at this stage.

Because of the sensitive nature of much of what is discussed at meetings meant to improve trade flows through the border, information is often kept under wraps.

Freight News has, however, received a confidential document following last week’s meeting that will be reported on tomorrow, August 8.

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