Sunday 2023-06-04




By Bahle Gama | 2020-10-02

THE reopening of the country’s borders created confusion yesterday morning when truck drivers from Eswatini headed to South Africa were ordered to produce the 72 hours COVID-19 test certificates.

This followed the travel advisory guidelines issued by the Health Minister Lizzie Nkosi on Wednesday, which compliment the position announced by the Republic of South Africa recently. What was not explained in the travel advisory guidelines was that the new arrangement would  affect truck drivers and essential services who have all along been able to travel between the two countries. When the borders opened yesterday morning, whilst they were able to pass through the Eswatini side, the truck drivers were stunned when they were ordered to produce this document.

The quick intervention by the Commerce, Industry and Trade Minister Manqoba Khumalo, who contacted his South African counterpart Ebrahim Patel, resolved what could have been otherwise a nasty situation, where truck drivers were reported to have started blocking traffic. The situation was mainly in the bigger or commercial borders at Lavumisa, Ngwenya and Mahamba.

After the engagement with his counterpart, Khumalo said business travel remained unhindered despite the requirement to produce recent COVID-19 test results.

In a statement, Khumalo stated that cross-border travel for truck drivers will continue as normal during the first few days after yesterday. He said they agreed with the department of trade and industry in the Republic of South Africa that COVID-19 test results will not be a requirement for truck drivers already on their way into Eswatini and those travelling back on or immediately after October 1.

“However, the usual precautionary measures will be taken and screening conducted.

“Should any disruptions for business travel occur, the kingdom will work with our neighbours to ensure they are unblocked swiftly,” he said. He further urged Emaswati to take all the necessary precautions when travelling for essential purposes and immediately facilitate the testing of those travelling, including the truck drivers. Speaking during interviews, some of the  drivers who spoke  on condition of anonymity disclosed that upon return from South Africa, they were told to produce these results and that upset them. They mentioned that what angered them the most was that the change was implemented out of nowhere without putting into consideration that they have been transporting goods in and out of the country without these documents.

“We are very infuriated about this sudden change. We came in yesterday and such was not required from us,” said one driver.

Another driver disclosed that they were so angry they even thought of blocking the entrance and exit points with their trucks.

In response to the commotion,Chief Immigration Officer Makhosi Simelane said when a new law or change is implemented, it is not usually well received because of how the recipient could be interpreting it. “What we learnt is that when the gates were opened in the morning at Lavumisa, some of the drivers who were  travelling  to Eswatini were told to produce these certificates, stating the 72-hour-old COVID-19 certificates,” he said. He further stated that this was a clear indication that it was a misinterpretation of the regulations implemented, however, as the day continued, they received reports that operations would continue as before for the drivers and other essential workers.

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