The almost ever-present backlog of trucks queuing to squeeze through South Africa’s N4 Lebombo Border Post into Mozambique requires “an urgent and coordinated approach between the two countries,” Juanita Maree of the South African Association of Freight Forwarders has said.
The association’s CEO added that it’s also high time that the ongoing depiction of South Africa’s perceived limitations at the important corridor crossing to the Port of Maputo is reanalysed.
Maree said that whereas fingers are often pointed to state organs like the South African Revenue Services (Sars), what is often overlooked is how Mozambique’s Ressano Garcia Border Post is not keeping pace with Lebombo.
“We must be careful to lay all the blame on Sars for what’s happening at Lebombo. It has become a false narrative that government agencies on our side of the Maputo Corridor cause a buildup at the border.
“In truth, trucks at Lebombo can be processed in about 15 minutes, but on the other side of the border, it can take up to an hour for trucks to be released into Mozambique.”
This is because of the time it takes to do forced-stop cargo scans and complete various transit processes – Temporary Import Permits, immigration, customs clearance, and manifest declaration.
“We must also remember that cargo on the corridor, mainly minerals, almost exclusively heads to Maputo, meaning whatever happens at Ressano Garcia causes a queue into South Africa. How is that our fault?”
That the crossing east of Komatipoort cannot cope with the increased volume on the corridor has become a well-established fact, confirmed by recent data contained in the World Bank and S&P Global Market Intelligence’s Container Port Performance Index (CPPI) for 2022.
Measured according to throughput dynamics such as vessel-working speed and cargo processing, Maputo outstripped Durban – ranked 248 compared to the South African port’s measurement of 341 out of a global total of 348 ports on the CPPI.
“The thing is, that border isn’t supposed to handle so much road freight. At the moment about 18 000 trucks pass through the border every day, and although it could handle more than 2 000 daily if needs be, it should only be processing about 600 trucks every 24 hours.”
If the railway line to the port could take its share of escalating cargo, road-freight pressure at Lebombo-Ressano Garcia could be substantially alleviated, Maree said.
She added that examining the potential for a road-to-rail shift in freight will be part of Workstream 1 when private-sector stakeholders meet with President Cyril Ramaphosa to discuss South Africa’s manifold logistical logjams.
But Ramaphosa’s national logistics crisis committee initiative is a long-term process.
“Right now we really need to look at differently analysing what’s happening at that border,” Maree said.
“Because of the queue, there isn’t a compliant environment, and matters are made worse by traffic officials exploiting drivers. These are things we have to try and sort out as soon as possible which is why need a coordinated approach between South Africa and Mozambique.”
In March 2022, preliminary talks in Pretoria between South Africa’s Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Naledi Pandor, and Mozambique’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation, Verónica Macamo, set the scene for serious negotiations about long-standing issues at Lebombo-Ressano Garcia.
Unfortunately, it appears that attempts during the 3rd Bilateral Commission between the two countries to alleviate congestion and delays on the Maputo Corridor crossing had no desired effect (*).