SA border closures: Retailers say they will cope

17 March 2020 | Business

OGONE TLHAGE

Retailers and transport companies are not overly concerned about the impact the closure of several land borders between Namibia and South Africa, due to the coronavirus, will have.

In response to confirmation that several people had tested positive for the coronavirus, South Africa closed 35 land-based border entry points and two ports yesterday. So far two Romanian tourists have tested positive for the coronavirus in Namibia, while test results are awaited on a truck driver, as well as two other Namibians who had travelled from Germany and Qatar.

The affected land border posts Namibians use to enter South Africa are Alexander Bay-Oranjemund, Onseepkans-Vellorsdrif on the road to Karasburg, Rietfontein-Klein Menasse on the road to Aroab, and Sendelingsdrif on the road to Rosh Pinah.

The other shared border posts, including the main Vioolsdrift-Noordoewer crossing, Nakop-Ariamsvlei and Mata Mata will remain open. According to South African authorities, people from high-risk countries will not be allowed into the country at all, and those from what are considered medium-risk countries will face extended health screenings.

According to the latest trade statistics bulletin compiled by the Namibia Statistics Agency (NSA), 45.3% of Namibia’s imports came from South Africa in 2019.

Shoprite/Checkers’ country manager Paul Malan said he was not worried about the impact the closure of several borders linking Namibia to South Africa would have.

“Our trucks are on the road and are still fine. It is difficult to say whether there will be an impact right now; maybe on certain items,” Malan said.

Ohlthaver & List, which manages the Pick n Pay franchise in Namibia, said its stock levels were still adequate and that they are utilising the Noordoewer border post to import their items.

On the logistics side, there was little cause for concern.

Burger Berg of Absolute Transport said he did not foresee any major problems.

“I do not see any impact and our trucks do not run through the borders that have been closed… perhaps if they close the bigger borders,” Berg said, adding that he doesn’t foresee South Africa shutting all of its shared border posts with Namibia.

Alvaro Jansen of Transworld Freight also said there was no immediate cause for concern.

“Our trucks are still going to continue driving as usual. What we will do is that we will test our drivers who may show potential symptoms. The drivers will also be required to drive with masks and gloves,” he said.

South African president Cyril Ramaphosa announced a range of economic measures that would be introduced to limit the impacts of the coronavirus on the economy.

“Cabinet is in the process of finalising a comprehensive package of interventions to mitigate the expected impact of COVID-19 on the economy,” he said.

Finance minister Calle Schlettwein was also asked whether the Namibian government would do the same, but no response was forthcoming from treasury.

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