Concern about illegal immigrants returning when lockdown is lifted


“Porous” land borders, especially with Mozambique and Zimbabwe, have been brought into the coronavirus battle by the Freedom Front Plus (FF+) which is concerned about illegal immigrants returning to South Africa once the lockdown is over.

“Problems with access control at border posts and porous borders in Mpumalanga could undermine the effectiveness of the national coronavirus-related lockdown if safety and security at borders and border posts is not improved,” the party’s Jaco Mulder said.

He indicated the FF+ knew “large numbers of foreign citizens” exited South Africa when the lockdown was announced last month.

“We are concerned they will return when the lockdown ends,” he said adding the FF+ would approach Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi and “demand the necessary measures are in place” before the lockdown is terminated.

“This has to be done to stop illegal immigrants returning to South Africa.”

South Africa’s land borders have long been an easy route into the country for cigarette smugglers supplying the illegal market, estimated by the Tobacco Institute of SA (TISA), last year to have accounted for half of national cigarette sales.

Cigarette smuggling is a concern for the country’s tobacco manufacturers especially during lockdown.

British American Tobacco SA (BATSA) warned smokers are “likely” to buy from underground traders selling illicit products during the lockdown period. The company was reported as saying this would be “a setback” to recent successes in clamping down on the illicit tobacco trade.

In a statement BATSA voiced concern about the lifting of restrictions on cross-border non-essential freight. This “could open the door” for illicit tobacco to enter South Africa.

The SA Revenue Service (SARS) is reported as saying 2019/20 revenue collection included R137 billion in taxes on cigarettes and other tobacco products.

Since announcing upgrading and erection of 40 km of fencing either side of the Beit Bridge port of entry on March 25, there has been no word of progress from the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure. Minister Patricia de Lille indicated erection of the fence was “a key intervention” to improve control at the only land port of entry between South Africa and Zimbabwe.