(Posted 19th September 2023)
Courtesy of Save the Elephant / African Elephant News and Devina Haripersad, The Citizen
In a bid to expedite mineral exports to Mozambique’s neighbouring ports, a contentious proposal for a new privately operated trucks-only border crossing near South Africa’s iconic Kruger National Park has stirred significant opposition.
The plan, spearheaded by The Logistics Co., indirectly owned by Old Mutual’s African Infrastructure Investment Managers, aims to establish a new route at Komatipoort, the primary land crossing connecting South Africa to Maputo, the capital of Mozambique.
This project, however, has sparked concerns from environmentalists, wildlife enthusiasts, and local businesses who fear its potential adverse effects on the environment, biodiversity, and the protected Kruger National Park.
At present, the existing border crossing at Komatipoort faces mounting pressure, resulting in long queues of lorries carrying valuable minerals like iron ore, chrome, and coal. According to a BusinessTech report, these queues often extend up to a staggering 30 km, causing considerable disruptions and bottlenecks in an increasingly crucial export corridor for South Africa’s mining companies. The situation has created chaos in the town of Komatipoort, which finds itself at the epicenter of this logistical challenge.
In response to this burgeoning issue, The Logistics Co. has put forth a proposal to construct a dedicated parking area on the outskirts of Komatipoort. This facility would house immigration and customs facilities, effectively streamlining the border crossing process. Additionally, the company intends to upgrade the existing gravel roads that connect to a newly established rail terminal on the Mozambican side of the border. The objective is to alleviate the burden on the existing border crossing by diverting a significant portion of truck traffic to this new route.
However, these plans have not been met without resistance. Environmentalists, led by the Kruger National Park authorities, have voiced their apprehensions. Isaac Phaahla, spokesman for the reserve, expressed his concerns, highlighting the potential negative impact that the proposal could have on the environment, biodiversity, and the protected area of Kruger National Park.
The Kruger National Park is renowned for its rich biodiversity, boasting a diverse range of wildlife, including the Big Five. It plays a pivotal role in conservation efforts in South Africa and is an international tourist attraction. The proximity of the proposed border crossing to the park raises concerns about the disturbance this project might cause to the natural habitat and the potential for increased human-wildlife conflict.
In response to these environmental concerns, Hennie Jooste, the head of operations at The Logistics Co., has reassured stakeholders they are committed to mitigating any adverse impacts on the environment. He contends all suggested negative impacts can be minimised to an acceptable level. He said the company aims to work closely with the South African National Parks and other relevant authorities to ensure the project adheres to strict environmental standards and safeguards.