The Democratic Alliance (DA) is calling for urgent answers from the Department of Health and the Department of Home Affairs as to why South African students living in Eswatini but studying in South Africa, are subjected to differing standards with regards Covid-19 testing and border crossings.
Daily commuters are allowed to cross the borders without a Covid-19 test for either students or their parents – but weekly boarders are forced to produce Covid-19 tests to exit Eswatini and to enter South Africa (and vice versa) at every crossing. Tests cost E850/R850 – which equates to R1 700 per person, per week.
Like many of the Level 1 regulations, these inconsistencies have not been thoroughly evaluated. At present, rapid tests are available in Eswatini but are not accepted at the border. They are far less costly than the standard PCR tests which currently takes between five and 14 days to process. In June, the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, announced that South Africans who work or study abroad have been given the green light to return to where they are studying or working, yet South Africans on our borders are being denied easy entry and exit for study purposes.
The latest travel advisory states that “To facilitate free movement of people, goods and services from South Africa, SADC and the African continent, travelers from neighbouring countries are allowed to visit our country and must possess the relevant travel documents and be screened for Covid-19 symptoms. 18 borders will be opened, and 35 border posts will continue to offer restricted services. Daily commuters who reside in cross-border areas/towns and those who are from neighbouring countries including those with relevant work permits and school children will be allowed to enter and exit the borders for work purposes. These commuters will be screened for Covid-19 symptoms, and where necessary, will be subjected to quarantine and isolation. However, weekly travelers will have to produce Covid-19 certificates/results taken 72 hours before exit out of the country.”
However, some residents in Eswatini have reported going for Covid-19 tests on a Monday morning and only receiving their tests on Friday – a full five days later – while others have taken as long as two weeks to receive their results. On the other hand, some commuters have reported that officials at Oshoek border post allow parents to “pop over to drop children at school with no Covid-19 test results being needed” while others have had to produce their certificates four and five times en route to Piet Retief. This is compounded by additional inconsistencies relating to which test results are acceptable – and from which institutions. All private laboratory test results are acceptable – but cost E850/R850 per test.
The Ministries of Home Affairs in the Kingdom of Eswatini and the Republic of South Africa have jointly agreed to indefinitely suspend the Covid-19 test certificate requirements for truck drivers embarking on essential cross border travel between the two countries, but are for some reason still insisting on Covid-19 PCR test certificates for parents of scholars and students attending institutions of higher learning. This is non-sensical and a waste of money for parents battling to make ends.
The DA demands that answers be provided as a matter of urgency. Students and parents can no longer be hamstrung by belligerent officials and muddled instructions relating to Covid-19 testing. The cost implications are an additional opening invitation to facilitate widescale corruption.