Illegal immigrants are crossing the border without being checked for Covid-19, community members say.
JOZINI – The lack of security and monitoring at the borders is a health risk to the community of Jozini which is located along the RSA-Mozambique border, in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal, as the government intensifies Covid-19 restrictions.
Although the border in question was notorious for motor vehicle theft and movement of illicit goods, community members have raised fears as more foreigners were spotted illegally crossing the Usuthu River, near gate 8 to Mozambique in the wake of the second wave of the virus.
They carried goods including alcohol and illicit cigarettes which were being sold across the country.
The government had made efforts to install modified Jersey barriers which run for eight kilometres from the boundary of Isimangaliso Wetlands Park moving to the western boundary of Tembe Elephant Park to curb theft of motor vehicles and the movement of illicit goods across the border.
But the efforts were seemingly futile as challenges persist.
Delani Mabika, Mayor of Jozini Municipality who also chairs the Covid-19 Central Command Centre of the area, visited the river where goods including illegal cigarettes were being carried into the country.
He said Illegal immigrants walked through the river without being scanned or tested for the virus.
Mabika said the lack of security jeopardises their efforts to fight Covid-19.
“While the country was on hard lockdown earlier this year, things seemed to be normal this side. People were coming from far areas to collect alcohol and cigarettes at the border when alcohol sales were banned.
This is a cause for concern because it shows that we are not safe, especially us who live along the border.
“The lockdown did not have any impact on this part of the country, especially those who are drinking alcohol. Immigrants carry alcohol to be sold here. It is worrying because the alcohol is not approved, which is a serious health risk to our community. People are coming from far away areas to collect this alcohol.
“With the second wave upon us, we are worried that many people will easily gain access to the country and sell this alcohol while the government is tightening lockdown restrictions. We have been pleading with the police and defence force to take action,” he said.
Earlier this year, the KZN government delegation led by Premier Sihle Zikalala visited the area following violent protest action and economy shutdown by the community of Jozini. They called for action to be taken to safeguard borders. Government has since established a team of senior officials that is continuously monitoring the barriers project implementation plan.
SANDF spokesperson Brigadier General Mafi Mgobhozi said during the festive season, they deploy more members at all the borders, to enforce the law.
He said extra members were deployed in areas where there was a high demand for enforcement.
“We know places who need more monitoring during holidays and pandemic. We are not aware of the river incident, but all our members are on the ground. Should there be a need for more members and monitoring, we will respond to that,” said Mgobhozi.