New number plate system to speed up South Africa’s border controls

 ·30 Aug 2021

The South African Revenue Service (SARS) is piloting a new Number Plate Recognition (NPR) system, which aims to speed up trade across the country’s land borders significantly.

The new system will eliminate the need for manifests and CN2 gate pass documents to be presented at the border for arrival and exit control measures, the revenue authority said.

“The NPR solution is an initiative under the customs modernisation programme and is informed by the SARS strategic objectives of making it easy for taxpayers and traders to comply with their obligations, as well as to detect taxpayers and traders who do not comply, and to make non-compliance hard and costly,” it said.

SARS said that the system also aligns with international standards and the World Customs Organisation (WCO) ‘smart borders’ concept that requires customs administrations to utilise automation, technology, and risk management to facilitate and secure cross-border trade and improve customs processes, services and overall performance.

“In addition to improving turnaround times for arrival and exit truck management, the NPR system will further reduce opportunities for corruption, as well as assist in combating the spread of Covid-19 by reducing the use of paper within SARS Customs processes,” it said.

“The Number Plate Recognition system will be piloted in Beitbridge from 28 August 2021. On conclusion of the pilot, it will be rolled out to the remaining land borders in phases,” SARS said.

New borders

In January, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi published the draft One-Stop Border Policy (OSBP) for public consultation.

The policy aims to harmonise the movement of people and goods between South Africa’s land ports of entry and its neighbouring countries and address congestion that results in delays.

The Department of Home Affairs said it is also redeveloping six of South Africa’s ports of entry, including:

  • Beit Bridge (Zimbabwe);
  • Lebombo (Mozambique);
  • Oshoek (Eswatini);
  • Kopfontein (Botswana);
  • Maseru Bridge (Lesotho);
  • Ficksburg (Lesotho).

This major project aims to modernise these ports into ‘world-class’ one-stop border posts, with construction set to be concluded by 2025.

“The benefit for the South African economy is that goods and people will move through these six busiest land ports at a faster pace and more effectively and efficiently,” the department said.

“This will have specific and direct benefits for traders, freight carriers and all those transporting goods since the intention is that all movement through these ports will be processed once and jointly by South Africa and the relevant neighbouring country.”

South Africa and its neighbouring countries currently use a two-stop system in which exit procedures are carried out by one state on one side of the border while entry procedures are carried out on the other side.

The department said that the ideal solution is to establish OSBPs where vehicles, goods and people stop only once for border processing formalities.

Through a negotiated bilateral agreement, officials from both countries will operate in a common control zone to harmonise all procedures.

Read: 5 big driver licence changes to be introduced in South Africa: Mbalula

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