A SURVEY by civil society group, Habakkuk Trust, has revealed that Matobo and Bulilima districts in Matabeleland South were receiving an influx of illegal returnees, mostly from Botswana and South Africa, sparking fears of a possible spike in the COVID-19 cases in the two districts.
BY SILAS NKALA
In its survey report dated July 15, Habakkuk Trust stated that communities living along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border area were living in fear of the implosion of the novel coronavirus as the number of illegal returnees in those areas continue to increase.
“The illegal entry points in Matobo and Bulilima districts may result in the unchecked community spread of COVID-19,” the report read in part.
“Citizens who are based in the neighbouring country are reportedly trickling back through illegal entry points, skipping crucial quarantine screening processes.”
The report added: “Disturbing reports indicate that community members are seemingly hesitant to report border jumpers to the police or local leadership, putting more people at risk of contracting the virus.
“Several calls have been made for citizens to report anyone who entered the country illegally from neighbouring countries so that they are taken to isolation centres for mandatory screening to prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
The report stated that due to fear of victimisation, some community members were not reporting cases of border jumping, with some going to the extent of accommodating the border jumpers.
“Local transmissions have been on the rise in the country and investigations are underway to establish the sources of infections,” Habakkuk Trust said.
“The increase may also be attributed to porous entry points which have become a cause for concern in combating the transnational spread of COVID-19 between Zimbabwe, South Africa, and Botswana.”
A villager in Matobo who spoke on condition of anonymity said they receive border jumpers almost every day but people were reluctant to report them for fear of antagonising relationships.
“Some of the illegal returnees knock at our homes at night seeking accommodation and some villagers actually accommodate them. We are very vulnerable and more cases of COVID-19 might be recorded in our community if the government does not address the issue of border jumping,” the villager said.
Habakkuk Trust also said it received a report about a family that illegally gained entry into the country with their sick relative who died in transit.
“They carried the body to Bulawayo where they managed to buy a coffin and proceeded to their rural home for burial. Border jumping in light of the pandemic has a likelihood of reversing the country’s efforts of fighting COVID-19,” the trust’s report read.
Contacted for comment yesterday, Matabaleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said: “It is unfortunate that there can be still some people who accommodate border jumpers who would have not come through mandatory quarantine.”