Covid-related congestion continues to hamper freight flow at the Skilpadshek border near Zeerust into Botswana, an important access point not just for supplies heading from South Africa to its landlocked neighbour, but also for goods heading further west towards Namibia.
“Moreover, it doesn’t look like it’s going to change anytime soon,” said Mike Fitzmaurice, chief executive of the Federation of East and Southern African Road Transport Associations (Fesarta).
His comments come as Botswana health authorities continue to pursue rigid coronavirus testing measures for all truck drivers entering the country, forcing them to wait around 72 hours for their test results.
It is the busiest crossing for connecting South Africa’s N4 Platinum Highway with the A2 Trans-Kalahari Corridor (TAC) through Botswana to Namibia, and the delays have led some transporters to head north to the Kopfontein border, a detour of some 110 kilometres along the R49.
“Restrictive testing is a real problem at the border,” Fitzmaurice said.
“Using Kopfontein for alternative access into Botswana because it’s not as busy as Skilpadshek is also still inconvenient because a lot of trucks have to head back south towards the TAC once they have passed through the border.”
It was not just bad for goods heading towards Botswana, Fitzmaurice added, but also for Namibia as they relied on the TAC for a lot of supplies from Gauteng.
And although Fesarta hasn’t yet seen truck movement making the long way around Botswana’s Kalahari border with South Africa towards the Namibian border west of Upington, Fitzmaurice said he wouldn’t be surprised if certain transporters were at least considering making use of this route.
“It is likely that trucks out of the Free State for example could be considering going this way towards Namibia rather than going through Kopfontein.”