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Cross-border Transport

Southern African countries have an increasing interdependence for trade and tourism. This is particularly so for South Africa, if one pauses to consider the relationships that we have with Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho.

A downside in all of this is that, because rail transportation has dwindled in efficacy and efficiency, the resulting pressure on road transportation has been exaggerated accordingly.

The Cross-Border Road Transport Act 19981 recognises that there is a need to improve the unimpeded flow, by road, of freight and passengers in the region, to liberalise market access and to reduce operational constraints. The Act therefore provides for regulation, facilitation and law enforcement in respect of cross-border road transport in both the public and private sectors. It is administered by the Minister of Transport.

There is an omnibus provision criminalising the failure to comply with any provision, and any contravention of the Act, in addition to the specific offences set out as follows.2

A. Permits

  1. It is an offence to:
    • undertake cross-border road transport without the required permit;3
    • undertake or allow cross-border road transport contrary to the conditions or requirements of a permit;4
    • enable a person who does not hold a permit, to use someone else’s permit;5
    • apply for, or obtain a permit knowing that another permit has already been issued to another person in relation to the same vehicle;6
    • forge, alter, deface or mutilate a permit;7
    • prepare any document, for use in connection with cross-border road transport, intentionally containing an incorrect description;8
    • fail to apply for a duplicate permit in the case of a damaged or illegible permit.9
  2. The Regulatory Committee can call for the return of a permit. It is an offence if you fail to comply with such a notification within seven days.10

B. Permit holder obligations

  1. It is an offence to:
    • give false information when required to supply information in terms of the Act;11
    • misrepresent or fraudulently use some ‘arbitrary’ document as if issued under the Act;12 or
    • use any document issued under the Act which has been altered, defaced, mutilated or added to.13
  2. If any permit holder, and the driver if applicable, fails to do any of the following, he commits an offence:
    • adhere to any prescribed obligation, or any permit condition, or any of the duties of a permit holder as set out in the Act;14
    • keep the vehicle’s permit in such vehicle;15
    • carry a consignment note or passenger list, in a readily accessible place on the vehicle concerned;16
    • submit the permit, consignment note and passenger list (as the case may be) to the Regulatory Committee once the permit has expired or the permitted journeys have been completed;17
    • put the prescribed marking on any vehicle;18
    • within 30 days, of any material change in information contained in the application form for a permit, to notify the Regulatory Committee;19 and
    • return any cancelled permit within 21 days.20
  3. It is also an offence to cede, alienate, lend, hire out, or hire a permit.21

C. Cabotage

Cabotage, basically, is the transport of goods or passengers between two points in the same country by a vehicle registered in another country. Most countries do not allow cabotage for reasons of economic protectionism, but also because of public safety and national security interests.

For purposes of the Cross-Border Road Transport Act, cabotage is also the onloading of freight, or passengers in the Republic for carriage to a country which is not the country of registration of the vehicle.

  1. It is an offence to:
    • undertake cabotage without the required permit;22
    • undertake cabotage contrary to the provisions of a permit.23
  2. If you are the registered owner of a vehicle, you commit an offence if you allow cross-border road transport, or cabotage, without a permit.24

D. Inspectors

The Chief Executive Officer of the Board of the Cross-Border Road Transport Agency, established in terms of the Act, appoints national road transport inspectors. These inspectors have extensive powers, necessarily so to supplement their equally wide range of functions and duties – which are all aimed at enforcement of, and monitoring compliance with, the Act.

  1. It is an offence to:
    • pretend to be an inspector;25
    • obstruct or hinder an inspector in the execution of his duties.26
  2. Amongst other powers, national road transport inspectors have the authority to:
    • cause a vehicle to stop;
    • question the driver, or a passenger of that vehicle;
    • direct the driver, or a passenger of the stopped vehicle to produce such documents as may be prescribed for the particular circumstances;
    • request the driver or a person in charge of a vehicle to open the vehicle for examination of the contents;
    • if the driver or person in charge refuses to do so, open the vehicle – including if necessary, by breaking any seal or locking device;
    • impound a vehicle if it is reasonably suspected of being used (or having been used) for unauthorised transport and direct the driver to deliver the vehicle to the nearest police station;
    • impound goods which are reasonably suspected to have been conveyed contrary to the Act, and direct the driver to deliver the vehicle (and the goods) to the nearest police station;
    • enter any premises to investigate any reasonably suspected contravention of the Act, and question any person; and
    • request delivery of and examine any document, and seize or make copies of any document.

It is an offence to fail to comply with any such direction or demand made by an inspector.27

E. Appeal hearings

What happens is that there is a Regulatory Committee which decides on the permits applied for under the Act – for cross-border transport and cabotage, basically. Anyone affected by the decision can appeal to the Transport Appeal Tribunal.2829

  1. It is an offence for any person who has been summoned to give evidence at an appeal hearing:
    • to fail to attend at the time and place specified in the summons;30
    • to fail to remain in attendance until excused by the Tribunal.31
  2. The Board or Regulatory Committee may order that a hearing is to be held in camera, and that no information may be published about certain or any evidence given at the hearing. Anyone who contravenes such an order commits an offence.32
  1. As amended; the latest amendment was effected by Act 3 of 2013. 

  2. Section 40(1)(2B). 

  3. Section 40(1)(a). 

  4. Section 40(1)(b). 

  5. Section 40(1)(e). 

  6. Section 40(1)(f). 

  7. Section 40(1)(g). 

  8. Section 40(1)(t). 

  9. Section 40(1)(u). 

  10. Section 40(1)(x). 

  11. Section 40(1)(h). 

  12. Section 40(1)(i). 

  13. Section 40(1)(j). 

  14. Section 40(1)(n), section 40(1)(o) and section 40(1)(p). 

  15. Section 40(1)(q). 

  16. Section 40(1)(r). 

  17. Section 40(1)(s). 

  18. Section 40(1)(v). 

  19. Section 40(1)(w). 

  20. Section 25(9) read with section 40(1)(2). 

  21. Section 40(1)(2A). 

  22. Section 40(1)(c). 

  23. Section 40(1)(d). 

  24. Section 40(1)(y). 

  25. Section 40(1)(k). 

  26. Section 40(1)(l). 

  27. Section 40(1)(m) read with Section 38(1). 

  28. Section 17. 

  29. Established in terms of the Transport Appeal Tribunal Act 39 of 1998. 

  30. Section 17(2). 

  31. Section 17(2). 

  32. Section 17(4)(c) read with section 17(4)(a).