The South African Association of Freight Forwarders (SAAFF) and the Minerals Council South Africa is calling on government to urgently attend to the crisis at the Maputo Corridor, reporting record-high congestion that has cost trucking companies more than R1.3 billion in revenue to date.
According to the organisations, the crisis at the corridor – which links the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal, Gauteng, Limpopo and Mpumalanga to the Mozambican capital and port, Maputo – has been festering since August.
It is estimated that the trading corridor – which transports a variety of commodities such as coal, chrome, steel and timber – can see between 800 and 1 200 truck drivers crossing a day.
These high volumes, compounded with operational inefficiencies, have reportedly meant that in the last few weeks some transporters have waited for more than three days to cross the into Maputo.
SAAFF CEO Dr Juanita Maree said in a statement, “These delays are resulting in loss of confidence, a loss of business and they are threatening the stability and sustainability of trade, transport, employment and job creation in South Africa.”
What is causing the delays?
According to SAAF and the Mineral’s Council, lack of traffic management, restricted operation times, inadequate infrastructure and tensions between the South African and Mozambican governments are the main sore points in urgent need of intervention.
“The greatest challenge to the border crossing is the lack of 24-hour operations, resulting in crossing times increasing from an average of one hour to more than 20 hours since 2019,” they said.
To find a way forward and address the congestion at the border and alleviate pressure on transporters and business, the two bodies have identified six solutions.
- The two governments need to address underlying tensions, as they present a stumbling block to trade and ultimately result in costly delays and the deterioration in services on both sides of the border posts.
- Establish a 24-hour one-stop border post. Currently the border operates from 06:00 to 22:00; this is not only inadequate to deal with high volumes of port-bound minerals in transit, but also costly.
- Reinstate traffic management which was – because of the Covid-19 pandemic – disabled and classified as a non-essential service.
- Address infrastructure adjustments at the Lebombo exit gate to avoid general cargo exports from delaying port-bound transit cargo moving out of South Africa to the Maputo harbour.
- Put in place standard operating procedures at the Komatipoort dry port and the Ressano Garcia KM4 terminal that will help regulate costs and maximise value for transporters.
- Establish a public-private partnership corridor management institution to facilitate trade and develop capacity at the corridor to ensure predictability, reliability and efficiency in cross-border trade with Mozambique.
“The absence of a platform for engagement between the public and private sector stakeholders on the corridor; the absence of consistent monitoring and communication, facilitation and integration of activities to support efficiencies, is another major non-tariff barrier to trade,” they said.
“The public and private sector stakeholders on the Maputo Corridor are willing to work together to resolve the issues urgently, but will require the support of an enabling environment created by the public sector,” Maree said.
Impact on drivers and local economy
The inefficiencies at the port have a severe impact on not only the people tasked with transporting goods across the border but on local business and sectors as well.
The long waits at the border posts are especially taxing for truck drivers who are forced to sit in 7-km to 15-km long queues, under extreme heat, without access to food, water and ablution facilities.
“Efficient corridors have a significant impact on the competitiveness of local business and regional economies because they provide a measure of predictability, reliability and efficiency central to trade and logistics supply chains – which is key to providing access to markets,” Maree said
“The damage to the people and economy of the region by the current calamity cannot be allowed to worsen further, when stakeholders are poised to work together to resolve the issues and ensure the best possible outcome for all.”