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SA prepares to open borders “well ahead of Christmas rush”

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by SAVIOUS KWINIKA 
PRETORIA – A senior source at the South African department of Home Affairs says the country’s land borders, “will need to open very soon”.

The officer who spoke to CAJ News Africa on condition of anonymity said pressure had come from regional states to resume operations with “enough time to prepare for the Christmas rush”.

She said the challenge lay in foreign workers going home at year end.

“Whether our borders are open or not, millions will cross into Botswana, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland, Lesotho with some continuing to Malawi and Zambia,” she said.

“The problem is, we and our partner departments in neighbouring countries have scaled down at places like Beit Bridge, Komatipoort and many other crossings. So we need to bring back personnel, make sure there is security to cope with high levels of traffic, even do maintenance on things so basic as toilets, footpaths and parking areas.

“But this takes time, and the plan is to open well ahead of the rush to make sure systems are working smoothly.”

She said if borders remain closed, travellers will simply move informally.

“You can’t stop that number of people. No matter how much we try to prevent it, they will go across, damaging fences, cutting through private property and potentially moving contraband between countries. And there is a risk of injury and even death for older migrants and children.”

Land and air borders have been closed since the end of March, though Kenya Airways has resumed a service between Nairobi and Harare.

South African tourism minister Mmamoloko Ngubane has confirmed that international travel would resume “sooner rather than later”.

She said a drop in Covid case numbers meant “we can fast-track the reopening of regional borders”.

European airlines serving Johannesburg are already selling tickets for travel from mid-October, though President Ramaphosa said flights in and out of South Africa will only resume once the country moves to Level One.

– CAJ News