GOVERNMENT says it will this week temporarily open the Beitbridge Border Post this week to receive more than 3,000 of its citizens who have requested to be sent back home in the wake of the coronavirus. The returnees mainly include those who had crossed the border illegally but are now in limbo and unable to feed themselves due to the lockdown in South Africa.
Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare Deputy Minister Lovemore Matuke confirmed the developments in an interview with the State-owned Sunday Mail, adding that noone will be arrested.
Matuke said arrangements with the South African government were being made to allow even those without the requisite papers to pass through.
“We have more than 3 000 (citizens) who have requested to be sent back home. The South African side of the border is closed too, but we have made arrangements that they be allowed to pass.
“Even those without the required papers should not be afraid,” said Matuke.
“No one is going to be arrested. We do not want them to use illegal channels to come back because we want to account for everyone in the wake of Covid-19. Government has put everything in place to ensure they are catered for.”
He said some of them were of no fixed abode in South Africa and were living a cat- and-mouse life with that country’s law enforcement agents, while others were doing odd jobs that have been foreclosed by the lockdown, which has since been extended for two more weeks.
Matuke said they have created space at the National Social Security Authority’s Beitbridge Hotel, where the 3000 would be isolated and tested for Covid-19.
He added that Government provide for the returnees during their stay at the facility.
“We have people coming from Botswana, who are housed at Hillside Teachers College, Bulawayo Polytechnic and some at Plumtree High School. I will be touring those places to get an appreciation of their safety,” he said.
As of 18th April, South Africa had 3,034 cases of coronavirus and 52 deaths, while over 900 had recovered.
By comparison, Zimbabwe had 24 confirmed cases including three deaths and two recoveries. – Zimbabwe Voice