'Tota le tla intshwarela bagolo, ke ne ke ikutsule,' these were the words uttered by a terrified young man who was arrested by the Ramatlabama Police for entering the country at an ungazzetted point.
He was being taken in at the border so he could be screened for coronavirus (COVID-19) before being whisked away.
This was not the first case of the day according to immigration officials as two other men were arrested earlier for the same offence.
The government has since announced a mandatory 14-day quarantine for citizens and residents entering Botswana from South Africa. This was necessitated by the fact that South Africa had confirmed cases and sustained local transmissions.
As of Saturday night, South Africa had 1,187 confirmed COVID-19 cases, amongst them 11 doctors. North West Province has recorded six cases. Ramatlabama border is one of the four points of entries that remain open between Botswana and South Africa.
On the other hand, as of Saturday night, Botswana had not recorded any case out of the 90 tests conducted. About 169 people are awaiting results while 1,753 are in quarantine.
According to immigration officer, Tsholofelo Sebina, some people resort to border jumping to avoid quarantine.
“Some people come here and ask us if they can go to South Africa, most of them go back as they do not want to be quarantined. Others cross at ungazetted areas and when they are caught they are sent to quarantine like the two men who were arrested by the police earlier,” she said.
She said they worked with the police to patrol well known points used by villagers living along the border to cross between the two countries illegally.
Sebina said they were satisfied with the protective gear they are provided with. She, however, said the workers were still scared, as there is not enough information on how best to avoid the
Ramatlabama police referred back to immigration for confirmations. Immigration administrator, Ofentse Pali confirmed the cases.
“On Saturday the police who were on patrol arrested three individuals (not travelling together) who had crossed at ungazzetted areas. They handed them to us and were screened by health workers before being taken in for quarantine,” she said.
Pali said even though they always had issues of people who live next to borders using ungazetted areas, the trio was coming from areas far from the border in North West Province.
She also revealed that they got a report on Friday that the police were looking for seven individuals who had entered through ungazetted points. “We always plead with residents to tell us when they see these people because they know them. When we find them they are sent to quarantine,” she said.
She, however, said the individuals are not charged for any offence but are sent straight to quarantine. Pali also disclosed that they deported a South African man who was found in Ramatlabama without a passport.
Health and Wellness minister, Dr Lemogang Kwape said they are aware of such issues and pleaded with Batswana to stop it.
“This issue could be very dangerous for us. We therefore plead with the people living along borders to heed our call and use designated borders,” he said.
Kwape said public health is of paramount importance hence those arrested are taken to quarantine and not police cells.
He said where necessary those who face criminal charges could be brought to book after quarantine. He said they would continue strengthening the security along borders to minimise the risk.