The closing down of the majority land ports of entry into South Africa as part of a state of national disaster in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic does not affect the busiest land border in Africa, the Beitbridge border post which operates around the clock, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said on Monday.
“We will close three border posts with Mozambique, which means only one will remain operating because we had four. We will close five border posts with Namibia, and only two will remain operating because we had seven. We have only one border post with Zimbabwe, that’s Beitbridge, and we will never close that one of course,” Motsoaledi said addressing journalists in Pretoria.
35 ports of entry closed
South Africa has 72 ports of entry, and 53 of them are land ports of entry. Eleven are airports and eight are sea ports. Of the 53 ports of entry, the South African government has closed down 35 as part of the national disaster declared by President Cyril Ramaphosa on Sunday night.
“All these 35 [ports of entry] have never had commercial activity anyway. It was only movement of people, pedestrians and cars. The second criteria we used to select these 35 is that they never had department of health port authorities, meaning they don’t have capacity to check anybody for health – things like temperature and all that. They only have police and home affairs officials,” said Motsoaledi.
Ways to beef up border unit
Intelligence Minister Ayanda Dlodlo said a meeting had been held earlier on Monday, exploring ways to beef up South Africa’s border intelligence unit.
“The president [Cyril Ramaphosa] announced the National Command Council which will of course have a command centre. We have put in place a process of ensuring that our national communication centre starts with the process of identifying systems that we put in place in the form of secure communications to assist the National Command Council,” said Dlodlo.
State of emergency could be next
Justice Minister Ronald Lamola said if the epidemic continues to ravage South Africa, the intervention might be upgraded from national disaster to a state of emergency.
“That would be an element of last resort, if there is a need. We are also showing you that we are putting all options on the table and we will use all the necessary means as guided by the Constitution,” said Lamola.
On Sunday, Ramaphosa declared a national state of disaster in South Africa and announced school closures and travel bans as the number of confirmed COVID-19 infections in the country rose to 61.
He said all schools across the country would close from Wednesday and gatherings of more than 100 people were prohibited.
South Africa has now imposed a travel ban from China, Germany, Iran, Italy, South Korea, Spain, and the United States from Wednesday, and South Africans were, with immediate effect, to refrain from travelling to the United Kingdom, Europe, the United States, China, and South Korea.