/ 3 December 2023

Border authority increases staff, hours for festive season influx

A truck tows a trailer loaded with goods near the border crossing with Zimbabwe, near Musina, South Africa. (Waldo Swiegers/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Extended operating hours, the deployment of 380 additional personnel and generators at South Africa’s busiest ports of entry are part of the Border Management Authority’s (BMA) strategy to deal with managing the “legitimate” movement of people and goods into the country over the festive season.

 During a media briefing on Sunday, BMA commissioner Michael Masiapato said that the authority and its partners had developed a comprehensive festive period plan to deal with an expected six million people who would move through the country’s ports of entry. The number, he said, was based on the pre-pandemic average.   

Planning started on 1 October, said Masiapato, and would end on Tuesday 5 December. The execution phase starts on 6 December and will run until 18 January.  

South Africa has 72 ports of entry, 53 by land, nine seaports and 10 entries for aviation.  

“We will be deploying about 380 additional personnel at the selected busiest ports of entry to assist with the delivery of services and provision of technical support during this period,” he said. 

Masiapato further said that the BMAs plan is supported by various structures such as the National Joint Operations and Intelligence Structures (NATJOINTS), the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, and other critical partners.

He said that inter-jurisdictional engagements between South Africa’s six immediate neighbours –  Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Namibia, Eswatini and Botswana – had led to the resolution to have the busiest ports of entry operational for 24 hours.

“Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi has already approved our request to extend the operating hours on other identified critical ports for certain dates after we agreed with our respective neighbouring countries,” he said.

He added that the busiest ports of entry would also not be hampered by load-shedding.  

“We are ready, even when some of our ports are having to experience load-shedding or power outages, work will continue on generators to avoid delays. We are ready to do port work.

Masiapato urged travellers entering and leaving the country to abide by the key requirements and laws.

“On Immigration matters, we would like to implore all travellers leaving and or entering South Africa to ensure that all their travel documents are ready in order to avoid any unnecessary delays at the ports of entry. 

“These include the machine-readable passports, relevant visas where applicable, permits for specified goods, plants, animals, vehicle insurance and or bank authorisation for vehicles for cross-border movement where vehicles are still financed,” he said.

He added that measures have been put in place to detect and confiscate narcotics, contraband, illicit goods, and stolen vehicles. 

“We therefore want to urge all travellers to desist from committing any act of criminality as they will be detected, arrested, declared undesirable, and then deported,” he said.

“In addition, we will be deploying about 380 additional personnel at the selected busiest ports of entry to assist with the delivery of services and provision of technical support during this period. There are also a number of senior members from the Border Technical Committee (BTC) who have been allocated individual ports for their visitation during the identified critical dates to provide support to the operational teams on the ground,” he said.

The following working hours will now be operational at ports of entry:

  • Grobler’s Bridge to Botswana: 6am to midnight on 15, 16, 22 and 23 December
  • Swartkopfontein to Botswana: 6am to 8pm from 14 to 17 December, 22 to 24 December, 2 to 4 January as well as 13 and 15 January
  • Kosi Bay to Mozambique: 6am to 6pm from 14 December to 14 January
  • Mahamba to Swaziland: 7am to midnight on 15, 23, 24 December
  • Jeppes Reef to Swaziland: 7am to 10pm from 22 December to 2 January
  • Mananga to Swaziland: 7am to 8pm from 18 to 23 December
  • Sanipass to Lesotho: 6am to 8pm on 15, 16 December as well as 21 to 24 December
  • Caledonspoort:  6am to midnight 15, 16 and 23 December and 2 January. On 22 December, the port will operate for 24 hours.
  • Van Rooyensgate: 6am to midnight on 15, 16 and 24 December as well as 8 January. It will operate for 24 hours on 23 December and 2 January
  • Monontsa Pass: 7am to 6pm on 23 and 24 December as well as 2 and 3 January
  • Pekabridge: 8am to 6pm on 23 and 24 December as well as 2 and 3 January

The BMA was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in Musina, Limpopo, in October. At the launch, Ramaphosa said the BMA was viewed by government as “a vital link in our efforts to harness the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area”.

“A more secure border is important for curbing illegal migration, human smuggling and trafficking. It will help in combating cross-border crime,” the president said at the time.