BY SILAS NKALA
GOVERNMENT has been challenged to intensify security measures along its borders with South Africa and Botswana to prevent border-jumping and transnational transmission of the coronavirus.
There have been fears that people still continue to use illegal entry and exit points, especially from Zimbabwe, as the economic situation is forcing them to migrate to the neighbouring nations.
The call came at a time when many countries were closing their borders to curb the further spread of the deadly virus.
A pastor and development practitioner, Dumisani Ncube yesterday said illegal movement of persons through undesignated points between Zimbabwe and her neighbours was increasing the likelihood of transnational transmission of COVID-19.
“Hundreds (of people) 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 these nations, combating the spread of the coronavirus in the face of border-jumping and illegal migration remains a challenge,” Ncube said.
“Zimbabwe has since recorded its first two cases of COVID-19, while South Africa has recorded over 400 infections in less than 19 days of confirming its first case.
“Host communities that house porous entry points are at a high 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.”
Ncube said the exposure to high risk of infection was exacerbated by limited information on COVID-19 within the rural population.
He added: “Areas situated at the edge of Zimbabwe’s border with Botswana do not have access to radio and television signals including local mobile networks, hence access to timely and accurate information is a challenge.”
His sentiments were echoed by National Consumer Association advocacy and campaign manager Effie Ncube, who said there was always a huge chance that the coronavirus would spread across borders through undesignated entry points.
“This is the case in respect of both Zimbabweans and foreigners migrating into Zimbabwe or transiting through it. Government must, therefore, increase border patrols to plug entry through undesignated points. Those picked up in such operations must be subjected to coronavirus tests so that the virus does not spread across borders,” Ncube said.
“But more than just patrols, government must increase awareness campaigns to minimise or even eliminate unlawful migration that might increase the risk of cross-border infections.”
Zimbabwe Congress of Trade Unions western region chairman Ambrose Sibindi said: “They (government) are either turning a blind eye or taking bribes to allow those using the illegal entry points. For now, with the coronavirus epidemic the country is facing, police must be deployed at these points 24/7 to make sure that there is no one using these points to try and prevent the spread of COVID-19.”
Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe declined to comment on the phone.