Residents in the Mbuzini village in Mpumalanga say the lack of border control in their area exposes them to the coronavirus because people cross illegally from Mozambique and Swaziland without being tested.
People from Mozambique who came over the border to sell alcohol in the area have also created another set of problems.
The Deputy-Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla, visited the area to establish the facts on the ground before briefing his seniors in the COVID-19 National Command Council.
The Mbuzini village in Mpumalanga is uniquely positioned where South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland meet, but it also has 21 of the 78 positive COVID-19 cases in the province.
Residents say it is because the 780-kilometre border is not properly maintained and people from the neighbouring countries cross daily into South Africa without being tested or screened.
“I’m afraid because we all get infected by these diseases. So, we don’t want people from Mozambique and Swaziland to come to this country,” says one resident.
While the delegation was at the village with two army choppers clearly visible, you could see in a distance people crossing from Mozambique into South Africa without seemingly afraid of being caught.
High levels of illicit trade of alcohol have also recently been brought over the border, allegedly with the help of soldiers that were deployed to protect the border – after South Africa was locked down and the sale of alcohol banned.
“Even the soldiers here, they have corruption soldiers and people have connections. So, soldiers help people to transport illegal things,” says another residents.
Deputy-Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Thabang Makwetla, says he is aware of the allegations and actions have already been taken.
“The Defence Force acted on it even where … and as you have heard in the report presented, there were already results arising out of what we were told and where to go. Even including weaknesses within our own organisation members where there are allegations of being involved or in cahoots with these smugglers. We have actually arrested some of our members for that.”
The lack of control at the particular point where the three countries meet has been an issue for several years. The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic might just be the momentum to get the three countries around a table to discuss the matter as it has not yet been done.
“We have not done it at this point in relation to collectively dealing with movement across the border and it is something that I am certainly going to elevate after this visit here.”
The community of Mbuzini says they want an official border post to be erected to monitor the movement across the border.
Below are the latest COVID-19 stats: