Deal with border chaos

Deal with border chaos

THE Christmas and New Year season proved to be a nightmare for most of Lesotho’s holiday-makers who wished to travel into South Africa.
It took an average of four hours to leave Lesotho and cross into South Africa through the Maseru border post. Long queues of exasperated travellers could be seen across the two borders.

The crisis at the border is not new. The problem has been rambling on since South Africa introduced stringent border controls in the run-up to the World Cup in 2010. Under the new immigration regulations, the six-month permit which allowed travelers to cross into South Africa without stamping their passports was phased out.

Ever since that decision, Basotho have had to endure long queues in the scorching heat and sometimes biting cold to cross the border.
In all this chaos, we have heard very little from the government, not even a shrill of protest.
What we have heard is that government officials are engaged in endless meetings with their South African counterparts to address the matter.
On the basis of what we saw during the holidays, the South Africans appear not prepared to budge an inch in lessening the burden on Basotho.

Yet from our interactions with Basotho, it is evident that the people’s patience is wearing thin. If left unaddressed, it would not be a surprise if one day tempers boil over at the border post. The border chaos has not only brought untold misery on Basotho but is now threatening the viability of businesses in Lesotho. The delays at the border are hurting business.

Trucks bringing in supplies are queuing at the border post for as much as six hours. The delays are also impacting negatively on tourist arrivals in Lesotho. Who would want to queue that long just to get into Lesotho? The result of this standoff at the border is that Lesotho is the biggest loser.
The government of Lesotho must quickly engage their counterparts in Pretoria and push for real solutions to the border delays at the Maseru Bridge border post.

It is pretty obvious that whatever arrangements that had been put in place to address the border challenges are not working. The new systems have dismally failed. We are painfully aware of the reasons advanced by South Africa in tightening border controls between the two countries.
This had something to do with the large undocumented immigrants from Lesotho who were beginning to pose a security threat for South Africa.
We would like to believe that matter has been adequately addressed by the Lesotho government.

Apart from migrant workers, the majority of Basotho who cross the border into South Africa have no intention of staying there.
They are professionals with steady jobs in Lesotho. However, due to Lesotho’s unique geographical circumstances, they have to cross into South Africa for business or to visit relatives and friends.

The South African Home Affairs Ministry must screen these and allow such professionals easy passage into the country without any fuss.
These professionals pose no threat to the few jobs available on the South African market.
Lesotho must exert real pressure on South Africa to fix the border crisis. This should not be allowed to continue.

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