Refugees from African countries such as Burundi and Democratic Republic of Congo at refugee centres in Musina in Limpopo say the COVID-19 lockdown makes it difficult to celebrate Africa Day properly.

There are three centres in Musina hosting refugees who were caught up in the national lockdown at the end of March.

Two of the shelters house men only and are situated at the Nancefield township. Women are accommodated at the local showground. Lack of social distancing and resources such as masks is a challenge.

Some of the refugees are happy that Africa is free, while others are optimistic that African countries will conquer the coronavirus pandemic.

“In some ways, we are not free because you can see that some of us, Africans, we are trying to discriminate against others. So, as Africans we need to join together, to be together, to make our Africa develop together. We can fight against coronavirus because these deceases didn’t start here in Africa. It started from outside, but there are some countries for those, who are following the news, have somehow won this disease. So even us, Africans, if we join together and fight this together and do what are our professional doctors are telling us we can win this disease,” says one refugee.

“We are still a long way to unity and now we treat our fellow brothers with hate and discrimination and I am sure that if come together as the whole Africa we can fight against killing our own bothers and fight against this coronavirus,” says another refugee.

Elvis Boyanda from Burundi says African governments should open the economies and relax lockdown regulations for people to have free movement.

Spokesperson of the Musina Municipality, Wilson Dzebu says they are proud to be hosting refugees from fellow African countries. He says the refugees are given services such as food, water and sanitation.

Dzebu says the border town of Musina, which is less than 20 kilometres from the Beitbridge Border Post with Zimbabwe, has a high number of foreign nationals.

He says some are in transit, while others work and stay there.

“We have citizens from various countries. We have citizens from DRC; we have citizens from Zambia; Zimbabwe and a variety of countries, you will recall that Musina was established in 1904, it means our mining town is about 1916 years old and for the rest of those years, there was never any incident of xenophobic attack. This means, as a municipality, we are very proud because we are able to host various people around here in Musina. When we move around here in Musina, you will realise that we have various shelters where we house nationalities from various countries. This simply means that we are very good at hosting these people although we are under lockdown and under the threat of coronavirus. We are very happy that we are celebrating this day as proud people of Musina,” says Dzebu.

Meanwhile, MEC for Social Development Nkakareng Rakgoale has called on volunteers to donate food and masks through her department to assist the refugees.

“We want to say to our people, especially those who have been bringing donations here, we really appreciate it because this was to show the spirit of ubuntu. They are taken care of. At least this time, they have three meals a day and a place to sleep and we have provided blankets to all the shelters,” says Rakgoale.

Africans throughout the world celebrate Africa Day to mark the foundation of the African Union, formerly Organisation of African Unity, 57 years ago.

Infographic on Africa Day: