The trucks have in the course of the lockdown joined the COVID-19 frontline, leaving their families to go on the road and stay at work, crossing borders to sure the country received a continued stream of supply.
Since the coronavirus (COVID-19) lockdown, the country has remained resolute in maintaining a steady supply of essential services and goods.
The status quo at the border gates could change. The Monitor team visited Ramatlabama border gate over the weekend to speak to truckers and authorities about the situation on the ground. On the way from Gaborone to Ramatlabama, several trucks could be spotted on the road under Police escort. At the border post, The Monitor met dozens of truckers, some parked by the roadside and others queuing to enter Botswana. The Monitor team would then find a group of about 20 distraught truckers bemoaning their troubles. They did not hesitate to give insight into their troubles.
“We have been taking long at borders before COVID-19, but now the situation is worse due to testing and waiting for results. The results are said to take 48 hours, but they sometimes take even longer as some of us have been here for long,” Emmanuel Gagoangwe said.
“The situation is bad because we are not allowed in shops and many of us here do not have food. We cannot even bath here, save for a few toilets to share that can lead to infections.” He decried the long stay at the border, which resulted in many drivers losing out on the metered earning as they are paid according to the mileage. And spending time here means money being lost.
He also said truckers were not even getting any risk allowance. He said they were scared of contracting the virus, but had to make sure they delivered the goods. The truckers called on the government to introduce rapid testing to make their work easier. They also complained that the testing caused headaches, as they had to be tested every three days. They also revealed that some of the staff they work with is not tested though they always come in contact with them.
“We as drivers have a huge problem. We are sent to get food for the country, but when we come back you send the police who are the only ones seen to be important to escort us and treat us like criminals. We will one day down tools and sit back just like everyone else because we are risking (our lives), but have nothing to show for it,” he said. They also decried that the police escort led to delays, as the police were not always available. They also bemoaned that in Botswana they aere not allowed to make any stop-overs to use toilets or cook when being escorted. The Southern District District Commissioner, Mmoloki Raletobane admitted faulty procedures at the border. “I went to the border yesterday after hearing about the potential strike. But I was told there was no strike even though there were concerns over delays,” he said.
“We have since established that the delay was due to those who receive them at Goodhope lab not working 24 hours to pass the results to the border. We have since requested that they now work 24 hours.”
Raletobane further admitted that resources were not enough for drivers awaiting results. He said he would speak to authorities to equip the border with more mobile toilets and showers to assist truckers waiting for their results.
“On the other cause for the delay other than waiting for the results, I think we should consider escorting some trucks to their delivery points even before results are released to reduce congestion at the borders,” he said.