15 Ethiopian border jumpers quarantined in Gwanda

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Fifteen Ethiopian nationals, who illegally entered Zimbabwe en-route to South Africa and failed to cross after the neighbouring country went on a lockdown on Thursday last week, have been taken to a former army barrack in Gwanda for “self-isolation” after screening.

By Richard Muponde

The Ethiopians were not exhibiting any symptoms of COVID-19.

Police arrested the illegal immigrants in a midmorning raid at the rural homestead of a suspected human trafficker in Shokoshe village in Mawane district early this week.

The number of the illegal immigrants has since increased to 16 after another one was fished out yesterday after going into hiding in the village when his fellow nationals were arrested.

The illegal immigrants were taken to Guyu where they will be in isolation at a former military barrack which was used by 3.1 Infantry Reserve Force before it was moved to Plumtree town.

The barrack was also used to train national youth service cadets popularly known as Border Gezi or Green Bombers before it was turned into a vocational training centre after the collapse of the programme.

One of the illegal immigrants is admitted at Gwanda District Hospital after exhibiting poor health.

Matabeleland South provincial medical officer Rudo Chikodzore yesterday confirmed that the Ethiopians were screened for COVID-19 and taken to Guyu.

“Guyu has been chosen as a temporary isolation site. Also noting that these Ethiopians are asymptomatic and have been screened and found not to exhibit any symptoms making them suspects, they are under ‘self-quarantine’. Because they have no homes to go to they are doing this at the site. Health teams will continue to monitor them in case they develop symptoms during self-quarantine. Social distancing will be encouraged as well as regular hand washing as they undergo this at the site,” Chikodzore said

Working on a tip-off from concerned villagers, who had been taking care of the Ethiopians since Wednesday last week, police officers launched a midmorning raid on Tuesday and found the illegal immigrants at the homestead of a suspected human trafficker in Chief Nhlamba’s area.

They were waiting to be aided to illegally cross the border into South Africa through Mlambapheli Border Post, west of Gwanda town.

Villagers feared that the foreigners might have evaded screening for coronavirus and spilt the beans. Reports said the foreigners came with the suspected human trafficker who wanted to facilitate their entry into South Africa through Botswana.

However, when the deal collapsed he took them to his rural home in Shokoshe and left them in the custody of his family members.