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Urgent intervention averts crisis at border post

Urgent intervention averts crisis at border post

Niël Terblanché

A POSSIBLE crisis that could have had far reaching consequences for Namibia has been averted after striking South African immigration and customs officials at one of the main border crossings between Namibia and its southern neighbour returned to work.


Under the State of Emergency, the border crossing between Vioolsdrift and Noordoewer was kept open specifically to ensure that the people of Namibia would not run out of vital supplies such as food.
The South African officials downed tools on Wednesday, citing a lack of clean drinking water, a move that halted the flow of goods for most of Wednesday.


The strike action meant that trucks transporting vital supplies like food were piling up on both sides of the border.


This action did not only endanger the supply of food, but had the potential to cost the Namibian economy dearly in terms of lost revenue.
In this regard, the Commander of the Namibian Police in the //Karas Region on Wednesday wrote an urgent letter to Lieutenant General Sebastian Ndeitunga, the Inspector General of the Namibian Police, informing him of the fact that South African officials have downed tools on Wednesday, 13 May, at the Vioolsdrift border control point.


Commissioner David Indongo further informed the Inspector General that other information received was that South African border officials at the other vital border crossing between the two countries at Ariamsvlei and Nakop also plan to down tools today.


crisis reaching consequences Namibia striking South African immigration customs
TRAFFIC HALTED: Trucks piling up at Vioolsdrift after immigration and customs officials from South Africa went on strike because of a lack of clean water. Photo: Contributed


“This office is seeking your urgent intervention in this regard as we foresee interference with the cross border movement of essential goods and service to and from Namibia,” Commissioner writes in his letter to General Ndeitunga.


South African media reported that the South African border officials at Vioolsdrift cited the lack of potable water as the reason for their decision to go on strike and bring trade between the two countries to an effective halt.


Although Vioolsdrift is situated on the southern bank of the Orange River, the supply of clean water has apparently been stopped because of sludge in pipes.


The authority responsible for the maintenance of the water supply system in Vioolsdirft is situated in Kimberly, hundreds of kilometres away, and has been unable to rectify the situation.


According to an online report by TimesLive, the South African department of water has known about the water supply issue for several months but that nothing has been done about it resulting the strike action.


It is alleged that the South African officials do not have fresh water to wash their hands, to drink, to shower or to flush toilets.


By around 19:00 on Wednesday evening, however, the water supply issues at Vioolsdirft were resolved and the more than 400 trucks transporting vital goods that had been halted while waiting to be processed at the border posts on both sides of the boundary line started moving again.


A senior police officer in the //Karas Region, speaking on behalf of Commissioner Ndongo, confirmed that the border post has been reopened and that trucks started moving between the two countries by Wednesday evening.


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