By Ntombi Mhlongo
With Mozambican transporters opting to use the Eswatini route to get to KwaZulu-Natal, South Africa, following ongoing tensions, the Ministry of Home Affairs says it is ready to manage the situation at the local border.
Recently, the Mozambican transporters on the Maputo-Durban route claimed that they are using a much more expensive alternative route to reach their destination following attacks on their vehicles in South Africa.
The transporters have opted to use Eswatini as an alternative route to get to Durban. However, they argued that this is not an efficient way as it is much more expensive. Francisco Mandlate, Secretary General of Mozambique, South Africa and Associated Association, which brings together transporters, is quoted as having said that the issue was of great concern.
The tensions have escalated such that this week, Mozambican transport operators blockaded the Ponta de Ouro border post between Mozambique and the South African province of Kwazulu-Natal.
According to a report by the independent television station STV, no vehicles with South African number plates were allowed to cross the border in either direction. Discussions with the authorities to end the blockade were underway.
The blockade was in retaliation for the burning of vehicles with Mozambican number plates by South African mobs. With the Mozambican transporters now opting to use the Eswatini route, Eswatini Daily News engaged the Ministry of Home Affairs to ascertain if the Mhlumeni Border, which is now busy, is ready to handle the pressure.
The ministry’s Communications Officer Mlandvo Dlamini said the government was monitoring the situation since it has bilateral agreements with the two countries.
“As we monitor the situation, we are more than ready to handle all the pressure in the event that there is an influx of transport vehicles at the border which the Mozambicans now use. We have in the past found ourselves having to increase personnel like during the festive season at the Ngwenya Border Gate so this will not be a new thing,” he said.
It has been reported that despite talks between the Mozambican and South African governments, the situation worsened a few days ago, when two more vehicles with Mozambican plates, one of them a passenger bus, travelling on the Maputo-Durban route, were set on fire in KwaZulu-Natal.
This brought to nine the number of vehicles attacked and set ablaze. The latest attacks have occurred despite the assurances given by Mozambican Foreign Minister, Veronica Macamo, that the government is working with its South African counterpart to investigate the case of vehicles set on fire.
Last week, the Minister of Interior, Arsénia Massingue, and her South African counterpart, Bheki Cele, held a meeting aimed at discussing cross-border crimes, as well as the wave of attacks perpetrated against Mozambican vehicles.
Most Mozambican operators had suspended travel along the Maputo-Durban route after the first attacks by South African criminal mobs.