By Surihe Gaomas
The recent opening of the international tourist facility at Namibia and South Africa’s border in the south at Sendelingsdrift has ushered in several new opportunities and economic spin-offs for the two countries.
Among the most notable ones New Era found out was the possibility of Southern African countries adopting something called the “Uni-Visa” for easy access of regional visitors across the SADC borders.
Bringing this to the attention of journalists at the opening of the Sendelingsdrift access tourist facility, South African Deputy Minister of Environmental Affairs and Tourism Rejoice Mabudafhasi said there is a strong emphasis on regional economic integration under tourism.
“As a regional block we are looking at a uni-visa, where we don’t need different visas to visit each other’s countries. It’s going to be like one SADC Visa,” explained Mabudafhasi. Another aspect she encouraged was that of river tourism amongst the indigenous communities living alongside the port of entry at the Orange River.
“We can train communities in using boats as part of river tourism, which is the way to go,” said Mabudafhasi, adding that the time has come to market Southern Africa as one regional block as an attractive eco-tourism site.
The Sendlingsdrift port of entry runs across the Orange River from Namibia to South Africa and can be accessed with the use of a pontoon that can carry up to six tons, including two vehicles at a time.
The tourist access facility serves to link the Richtersveld National Park in South Africa and the Ai-Ais Game Park in Namibia.
After officially unveiling the plaque on the Namibian side, Minister of Home Affairs and Immigration Rosalia Nghidinwa said the border facility aims to facilitate the eastwards movement of people and shortening the routes of visitors and tourists.
“The opening of this port of entry will promote the movement of people along the common borders and is in line with the SADC Protocol on the Facilitation of Movement of persons. This tourist access facility will also provide an alternative route and shorten the distance for our visitors, people and travellers who could in the past only access South Africa or Namibia through Noordoewer/Vioolsdrift or Oranjemund/Alexander Bay for tourist and other visiting purposes,” explained Nghidinwa.
She further called upon communities of both countries to guard against negative activities that might compromise the good intentions and purpose of this facility.
Nghidinwa said any undesirable activities at this port of entry could lead to its unfortunate closure.
Echoing the same sentiments, South African Minister of Home Affairs Nosivive Mapisa-Nqakula said that the quest behind this initiative is regional economic-tourism integration.
“The advent of the transfrontier conservation areas and cross-border tourism facilities is an important part of integrating our regional economic activities, and should usher in a new era in eco-tourism management within the region,” said Mapisa-Nqakula.
She concluded that the facility should therefore be seen as an investment by the community, from which the region can benefit.
The latest opening of the Sendelingsdrift Port of Entry at the Orange River comes just 10 days after a similar opening of the Mata-Mata Tourist Access Facility in the south-east.