Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi says South Africa will not allow anyone into the country without the required documents, including results of a valid Covid-19 coronavirus test.
Motsoaledi was briefing the media on Wednesday on immigration matters and border law enforcement under the adjusted Covid-19 level 3 restrictions.
His comments come in the wake of the huge congestion at the borders before Christmas, especially at the Beitbridge border post, where people and trucks leaving the country were stranded for days.
The travellers complained about lack of water and ablution facilities. A number of deaths were reported as a result of the delays in clearing the congestion.
On Wednesday, Motsoaledi outlined government’s interventions ahead of the expected volumes of people returning to South Africa between January 2 and 14. He said the department would deploy 160 more officials at the six busiest land ports until January 14. These are Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe, Lebombo with Mozambique, Oshoek with Eswatini, Maseru Bridge with Lesotho, Ficksburg with Lesotho and Kopfontein with Botswana.
Responding to reports about the number of truck drivers who died, Motsoaledi said that it was the duty of the SA Reserve Services (SARS) and not his department.
“We check your passport, not trucks. Our duty is to check human documentation, SARS is the one that decides on what should happen, not us,” he said.
The truck drivers ignored instructions to meet up at the designated area where they would be attended to. Instead, they blocked incoming traffic, he said.
The Road Freight Association said that four truck drivers had died while waiting to cross the Beitbridge border due to the conditions at the post. Thousands of people queued in snaking lines stretching several kilometres as they made their way home to Zimbabwe, Malawi and Zambia.
At the time, Motsoaledi said that reinforcements, including the police and the army, had been deployed to the border where truck drivers had abandoned their vehicles.
The situation had been made worse by a protest involving truck drivers who were against the strict Covid-19 regulations, he said.
Travellers have to produce a negative Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours before being allowed to cross the border.
Motsoaledi said that they were in talks with the health department to amend the restrictions for truck drivers. “We must arrange that the truck drivers do the test with their companies once a month and it will be organised as such to make the situation much better.”
On Wednesday, Motsoaledi said some of those who died were not from the trucking industry.
“The other deaths occurred long before the increased activity [at the border] associated with the holiday season. There was of course some mortality, which had nothing to do with truck drivers, which as I said, occurs throughout the year,” he said.
“This month, it occurred on December 8, 13, 14, and 22. It was long before the period of the congestion,” he added.