THE SOUTH African Police Service (SAPS) and the Lesotho Mounted Police Service (LMPS) are working closely to increase presence on the roads to ensure safety of travellers during the festive season.
On Friday, the two forces deployed police officers for a roadblock near Ha Hoohlo on the road from Maseru Bridge into Maseru town.
According to SAPS’s Colonel Thandi Mbambo, the idea is to ensure the safety of the travellers between the two countries. He said they have also beefed up security at the borders including operations in the vicinity of the borders.
“The operations stretch across the entire Free State province and we further engage with Lesotho police when it comes to all the nine borders,” Col Mbambo said.
“There are also cross-border operations in which we are further working with the LMPS and those will take place every Friday throughout the festive season.”
Furthermore, the SAPS headquarters, The NATJOINT, recently visited Maseru Bridge to assess its readiness for the festive period.
Col Mbambo said the reason for the visit was to ensure the ease of movement at the nine ports of entry into Lesotho during the festive season by increasing security and ensuring that travellers do not queue for long.
“Basically, the NATJOINT led by Lt Gen Mawela visited Maseru Port of entry to assess and monitor processes in place as to whether or not they will accommodate the expected influx of travellers to and from South Africa into Lesotho this festive season as well as to ensure that plans were in place to provide security during that time.
“He met with various stakeholders manning the border who assured him that travellers will not be frustrated due to congestion and that criminals will have little space to manoeuvre through the border.
“Security and manpower from various stakeholders will be beefed up and measures have been put in place to minimise congestion. This will be done by opening more control points that are separated between normal travellers, students, miners and VIPs,” Col Mbambo told the Sunday Express.
In October this year, former South African Home Affairs Minister, Malusi Gigaba and his Lesotho counterpart, Tsukutlane Au, agreed that from 1 November 2018, certain groups of people would no longer have their passports stamped but rather scanned.
The exemption applies to Basotho miners working in South Africa with valid corporate visas, learners with valid student permits, Lesotho Special Permits (LSP) holders and government diplomats. Diplomats from other countries accredited in Lesotho will also have their passports scanned instead of being stamped.
Mr Gigaba said that Maseru and Maputsoe borders are among the six South African borders which his government decided to overhaul to ease movement. He said that since it was a long-term process, the meeting with Mr Au was to discuss immediate solutions which would lead to the ultimate solution.
“The South African government has decided to increase efficiency at the six borders which link it with other countries, two of which are Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg Bridge but then it is a long-term project therefore this meeting was aimed at introducing measures of how the problems will eventually be solved and further map out how the steps will be implemented.
“We have decided that as of 1 November certain groups of people who cross in and out of South Africa will no longer stamp but have their passports scanned instead. We will be implementing the biometric data system which will verify the identities of people using the border.
“The exemption for this group of people will serve as a trial in order for us to see how it works so that we can roll it out to other citizens of the two countries. There will also be special lanes for these groups of people in order to reduce the congestion due to long queues,” Mr Gigaba said at the time.