People wait to enter the country through the Beitbridge border gate in Limpopo. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)
People wait to enter the country through the Beitbridge border gate in Limpopo. Picture: Timothy Bernard/African News Agency (ANA)

Call for SANDF to help SAPS maintain law amid the chaos at SA’s ports of entry

By Vernon Mchunu Time of article published Jan 7, 2021

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Durban – The chairperson of the parliamentary portfolio committee on home affairs has called for the closure of ports of entry into the country, saying it was the only solution until sustainable alternatives are found.

Advocate Bongani Bongo also called for an urgent increase of law enforcement officials at the country’s border gates, saying tight security would help seal the porous nature of the borders especially amid the threat of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Bongo spoke as social media was filled with video clips showing thousands of people waiting to enter the country through the Beitbridge border gate in Limpopo.

Concerns of a new spike in Covid-19 infections were raised as the crowds of people were seen in the videos jostling closer to the entry point, without any social distancing.

“While we advocate for the ease of movement of people across borderlines, this has to happen within the law and set regulations.

“Lawlessness undermines the spirit and intentions of international co-operation,” he said.

“There must be an increase in SANDF personnel to augment the SAPS presence since a similar increase in December following calls by the committee for urgent intervention had proven helpful.”

The DA yesterday described the situation as an “imminent humanitarian crisis”. The party’s Limpopo provincial leader Jacques Smalle expressed “grave concern at the indifference with which authorities were treating the situation”.

“The influx has created a massive backlog in the processing of documentation and Covid-19 testing and screening which resulted in hundreds of people, many not wearing masks, crammed together without social distancing,” Smalle said.

“Limpopo is currently experiencing a devastating second Covid-19 wave with 6 318 active cases, a stark increase from the 295 active cases recorded one month ago. We are concerned that this congestion, which categorises as a super-spreader, will have devastating consequences and put further strain on Limpopo’s poor and below-average health services.”

By yesterday evening, it was not clear whether the awaiting-passage people were returning South African tourists, foreigners fleeing the hard Zimbabwean lockdown or Zimbabweans working in the country who had visited home for a festive break.

The Home Affairs department had not responded to a request for comment at the time of publication.

Bongo has also called on South Africa to engage its SADC partner countries to find lasting solutions to the current challenge regarding the movement of people through the local borders.

He said he was concerned with the current situation at both the Beitbridge and Lebombo ports of entry into SA, adding that it could have been averted with SA and its neighbours formulating a strategic plan to deal with the foreseeable influx of people in both directions. He said adequate planning was not done.

“The movement of people in and out of SA, especially through the Beitbridge and Lebombo border posts, was bound to be chaotic considering the numbers that use those ports of entry,” he said.

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The Mercury

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