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COVID-19: Travellers at Lebombo border grow impatient after SA borders closed

In his address to the nation on Monday night, President Ramaphosa revealed that the country would close 20 land borders until 15 February as South Africa tried to claw back on soaring COVID-19 cases.

The Lebombo border post between South Africa and Mozambique on 12 January 2021. It remains closed for arrivals following the announcement of new regulations by President Cyril Ramaphosa. Picture: Boikhutso Ntsoko/Eyewitness News

JOHANNESBURG - Scores of travellers are on Tuesday waiting at the Lebombo Border between Mozambique and South Africa as it remains closed for arrivals following the announcement of new regulations by President Cyril Ramaphosa.

In his address to the nation on Monday night, Ramaphosa revealed that the country would close 20 land borders until 15 February as South Africa tried to claw back on soaring COVID-19 cases.

There are concerns that snaking queues at the some of the country's popular ports of entry could become super spreader events.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza visited the Lebombo border on Tuesday.

He also inspected forces deployed along the borderline but despite this intervention, some are still crossing into the country illegally.

An immigration official at the post tried to calm the crowd that was becoming increasingly impatient.

“South African citizens, people with permanent residency and mineworkers would be allowed to go home. But people travelling for tourism, shopping and all that cannot be allowed to go even if they have their coronavirus tests results."

WATCH: Adjusted level 3 remains, but curfew changes and land borders close

The land borders between Mozambique and South Africa may be closed but migrants are still making their way into the country illegally.

In Mbuzini in Mpumalanga, soldiers have been arresting hundreds of people before placing them in trucks and deporting them back to Mozambique.

Scores of South Africans and documented permanent and temporary residents who are allowed to enter the country waited for the Lebombo border to open from 6 am on Tuesday.

But as Nzuza was inspecting operations, undocumented migrants were crossing elsewhere.

“We had a situation where we said we are not going to require visas for SADC countries with the exception of TRC, but what we are seeing is illegal migration of people who don’t have documents for whatever reason.”

Nzuza insisted that opening the borders was not a solution as it would promote illicit trade.

He said more infrastructure would be built to reinforce the border, but it was not clear how.

“We are talking about technology, there are quite a number of options.”

Nzuza also heard that one of challenges with the one-stop border post was that it was not clear which jurisdiction should deal with crimes like robberies of travellers and theft of equipment on the so called “no man’s land”.

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