Imagine waking up in the morning to go for a routine checkup with your doctor in South Africa and on your way back home you are told that you will be quarantined for 14 days? Staff Writers, PAULINE DIKUELO & TSAONE BASIMANEBOTLHE found Batswana in just that predicament on Tuesday
On Tuesday, dozens of Batswana came face to face with the scary reality of coronavirus. They crossed the border early in the morning and returned to a nightmare.
At Pioneer Gate in Lobatse, medical practitioner, Dr Montoedi Matlhare found himself amongst a group of bewildered citizens who were rounded up while attempting to return to Botswana.
Having crossed the border into South Africa early that morning, little did the group know that at eight that morning, Acting President Slumber Tsogwane announced that every citizen and resident returning from countries affected by the coronavirus would be quarantined for 14 days without any exception. The instruction, Tsogwane told the nation via a live Btv address, was with immediate effect.
With his sixth sense engaged, Dr Matlhare says he asked the immigration officials if it was okay to cross the border for a medical checkup. He says he was given the all clear.
To his surprise, when returning to the Botswana side, a few hours after the Vice President’s announcement, Dr Matlhare was escorted to a tent where government officials told him that he would be quarantined at IDM school in Gaborone for 14 days. Or he could to go back to South Africa. That was the choice to be made.
“The approach is really terrible, I feel the decision was rushed and they should have at least given us a warning.
“Right now we have been kept here against our will putting us at a greater risk of even contracting the disease.
“Had they told me in the morning, I wouldn’t have crossed because I also have patients here that I need to attend to,” the doctor told Mmegi.
A Mmegi news crew at the Pioneer Gate border found more than 20 agitated Batswana waiting to be transported to their new quarantine home at IDM, confused, frustrated and angry. Tsogwane’s directive had reached all borders and was being put into effect.
Sorrow and despair were written on their faces and many of them jumped at the chance of being interviewed, hoping Mmegi could somehow rescue them.
“Ehee, latla la thusa tota, letle gore interviewa. This is not fair and we don’t even know what the world has turned into. They let us cross in the morning and now this?” a frustrated traveller called out from the group.
“Gagona kagiso gotlhelele mo lefatsheng la rona. Retla reng rea quarantining hela,” another piped in.
Kesaobaka Motsewabeng, who was accompanied by her three children, said the quarantine should have started with people who had previously gone to the affected countries, adding that exception should have been made.
“There are people who were in South Africa last week attending weddings and were left to roam freely. I just crossed this morning after being given the go ahead.
“I went straight to the hospital and straight back here. The only person I was in contact with was my doctor,” she said.
Some Batswana decided to go back to South Africa instead of being quarantined.
“These rushed decisions will come to haunt the country big time,” Masego Kanngwe told Mmegi.
“I would rather go back to South Africa rather than risk going to a school which I doubt has been prepared to accommodate us.
“I cannot risk my health at all because I know they won’t consider that I’m diabetic. They said we will be quarantined to just monitor our temperatures every morning.”
Despite the announcement of the quarantine, and the general hatred of it, Batswana are still crossing the borders in large numbers.
According to Immigration officials, Tlokweng border on Tuesday registered 914 arrivals of both Batswana and non-Batswana while another 914 also departed the country to South Africa the same day.
On Wednesday, the number of arrivals went down to 303 both Batswana and non-Batswana and only 412 people left the country.