‘Weak border controls fuelling COVID-19 importation’

Zimbabweans form a queue at the Beitbridge border post just after arriving from Durban, South Africa.

THE human rights watchdog, Zimbabwe Peace Project (ZPP) has revealed that poor border controls at the points of entry allowed border-jumping, thereby, increasing the risk of importing the deadly coronavirus into the country.


In its report dated April 25 to May 3, ZPP said it conducted a survey in Binga, Chiredzi, Mutoko, Mutasa and Matobo in line with its community peace building initiatives to gauge the experiences of community members on key issues during the lockdown.

The human rights watchdog said all participants indicated that they had received information about the deadly coronavirus in the week ending April 27 from television and radio broadcasts as well as social media.
ZPP reported that visible policing and increased patrols were reported in Binga and Matobo.

“Police have been patrolling and restricting movements of citizens. Maphisa in Matobo district lies on the border between South Africa, Botswana and Zimbabwe,” the ZPP report read.

The Zimbabwe Republic Police (ZRP) and the Zimbabwe National Army (ZNA) were arresting illegal migrants (border jumpers) and those defying lockdown regulations, particularly at local drinking spots.

“In Chiredzi, Chilonga lies near the South African and Mozambican borders, where high levels of illegal migration occur. Poor border controls had allowed for people to enter communities without being quarantined,” the report added.

“In Binga, reports are that police, in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, ring-fenced the Zambezi River entry points against local and Zambian fishermen.”

In March, Dumisani Ncube, a pastor, complained that illegal movement of persons through undesignated points between Zimbabwe and her neighbours had increased the risk of transnational transmission of COVID-19.

He said hundreds cross perimeter fences separating Zimbabwe with South Africa and Botswana without being tested.

“These illegal entry points increase the chances of COVID-19 cases entering without detection. In spite of the bilateral commitments put in place by the two countries, combating the spread of the coronavirus in the face of border jumping and illegal migration remains a challenge,” Ncube said.

“Host communities that house porous entry points are at a higher risk of infection. Areas such as Maitengwe, Nswazwi and Tshitshi in Bulilima and Mangwe districts are at a higher risk of transmission as they are conduit points of border jumping.”

Information deputy minister Energy Mutodi said the government has intensified surveillance at all border posts to ensure there were no clandestine and illegal movements of people in and out of the country. Zimbabwe shares borders with Zambia, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa and Botswana.