Porous land borders are potential COVID-19 entry points to SA


Government’s closure of the majority of land ports of entry as part of the national effort to halt the coronavirus pandemic are welcome but attention must be given to the thousands of kilometres in between.

This is the view of Freedom Front Plus (FF+) MP Philip van Staden.

He raised the issue of porous land borders during last week’s Parliamentary debate on the pandemic pointing out there was insufficient control over the “daily flow” of people, mostly illegal and undocumented, into South Africa.

Protection of South Africa’s land borders is a task assigned to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and executed under Operation Corona. There are currently 15 companies of soldiers, mostly infantry units, deployed on this tasking.

defenceWeb asked the SANDF Directorate: Corporate Communications for information on measures the national defence force is taking to prevent further spread of the coronavirus. This included deployment of SA Military Health Service personnel to border protection bases. At the time of publication no response had been received.

Van Staden, via a FF+ statement, indicated he will be asking Health Minister Zweli Mkhize questions about coronavirus protection along South Africa’s more than four thousand kilometres of land border.

Land border posts now closed are Bray, Derdepoort, Gemsbok, McCarthys Rest, Middelputs, Mokopong, Mokgobistad, Platjan, Pondrift, Stockpoort, Swartkopfontein, Tweerivieren, Zanzibar (all Botswana), Bothashoop, Emahlatini, Josefsdal, Nerston, Onverwacht, Waverley (eSwatini), Boesmansnek, Makhaleng Bridge, Mononstha Pass, Ongeluksnek, Pekabridge, Ramatsiliso, Sani Pass, Sephaphus Gate, Tellebridge (Lesotho), Pafuri, Giriyondo, Kosibay (Mozambique), Alexander Bay, Onseepkrans, Rietfontein and Sendelingsdrfit (Namibia).

Sea ports Mossel Bay and Saldanha are also closed in terms of the Presidential declaration on coronavirus.

In line with President Cyril Ramaphosa’s national statement on coronavirus at the weekend, prohibiting gatherings of more than 100 people, the SANDF is taking its measures to mitigate transmission of coronavirus. In a letter dated 16 March and signed by Brigadier General SD Molefe, Director Defence Reserves, the SANDF told Reserve members all military parades are cancelled with immediate effect until 31 May this year; all SANDF church services must be authorised; all offices must have sanitisers; no overseas travel (including private) is allowed; meeting sizes are to be reduced; staff must be willing to work from home; personnel will be scanned on arrival at headquarters and units and personal hygiene will be improved.

It was also revealed SANDF involvement in the Rand Show, Bloemfontein Show and Royal Show in Pietermaritzburg has been cancelled.