Covid-19: More than 3100 Zimbabweans return home since the start of lockdown

The country received 527 citizens returning from South Africa yesterday through the Beitbridge Border Post bringing the number of returnees from various countries to 3 134 since the country and other regional countries initiated national lockdowns to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The country has put in place measures to ensure that returnees are immediately quarantined as part of measures to control the spread of the virus. To ease crowding at the entry points, the returnees are transported and sheltered at quarantine centres in their home provinces.

In a telephone interview yesterday, Deputy Minister of Labour, Public Service and Social Welfare, Lovemore Matuke said the returnees came by road while some flew in. The country started the national lockdown on 30 March.

“We have since the start of the lockdown received up to 3 134 returnees into the country who have voluntarily come while some were deported. The returnees have been coming from South Africa, Botswana and Mozambique through the road while some coming from other countries have been using their arrival destination as the airport,” said Matuke.

South Africa’s Home Affairs Department yesterday deported 527 Zimbabweans via Beitbridge Border Post, most of whom had violated immigration laws while others had finished serving varied jail terms.

That brings to 1 004 the number of people who have officially been repatriated from the neighbouring country in the last seven days. Among those deported yesterday were 129 ex-convicts and a majority of the migrants were men with only seven being women.

The returnees arrived in 11 buses. This time the repatriation was funded by the South African government with the Zimbabwe Embassy providing logistics.

93 deportees from Botswana receive certificates of their results after completing the mandatory 21-day Covid-19 quarantine at Bulawayo Polytechnic on Wednesday
93 deportees from Botswana receive certificates of their results after completing the mandatory 21-day Covid-19 quarantine at Bulawayo Polytechnic on Wednesday

Under normal circumstances the deportees would find their transport from Lindela Repatriation Centre in Johannesburg to Beitbridge and pay R550. It is understood that the South African government spends at least R100 for the upkeep of each migrant under detention at Lindela daily.

Zimbabwe’s Consul-General to South Africa, Mrs Melody Chaurura said; “We identified 476 people on Friday while the rest of the group had gone through the same process prior to the implementation of the lock down.” Upon arrival in the country, the migrants were taken to the National Social Security Authority Hotel, which is being used as a quarantine and isolation centre for the returnees in Beitbridge.

The Director of Social Welfare in the Ministry of Public Service, Labour and Social Welfare, Mr Totamirepi Tirivavi said the deportees were profiled, screened for Covid-19 and transported to their respective provinces for quarantining.

“Today (yesterday) we have received our citizens who were being detained at Lindela in South Africa. Upon arrival they are going to go through profiling and rapid tests. Those that would be found to be Covid-19 positive would be put into isolation while those asymptotic will be sent to Government designated quarantine centres closer to their final destinations. The buses have started arriving to transport them and the process is going on smoothly.”

He said the Beitbridge centre will remain with 150 people mainly those from Matabeleland South. The South African Home Affairs Department has also started implementing a blitz to penalise foreign immigrants who had overstayed in the neighbouring country prior to the lockdown.

According to the Department of Home Affairs lockdown guidelines visitor who fail to leave South Africa during the lockdown are exempted from any form of immigration related penalties. However, those who would have overstayed are being banned from travelling to that country for periods varied from three months to a maximum of five years.

The Assistant Regional Immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Mr Nqobile Ncube said; “As per the operational guidelines only those who were affected by the lockdown in either Zimbabwe or South Africa will be exempted from penalties.”

Meanwhile, Midlands yesterday received 97 returnees mostly from South Africa and Botswana. Of the 75, 50 came from Botswana while 25 were from South Africa.

The returnees, who were ferried by Zupco buses, were immediately put under mandatory quarantine at Gweru Polytechnic College where they would be housed for at least eight days while undergoing screening and testing for Covid-19.

Sen Mavima said the province had adequate food for the returnees while in quarantine after receiving donations from the corporate world.

Sen Mavima, on The province received 4,5 tonnes of mealie-meal from Blue Ribbon Foods as part of the 30 tonnes national donation handed over to President Mnangagwa.

Sen Mavima also received 2 000 litres of petrol, 2 000 litres of diesel, 200 litres of hand sanitisers and 500 masks from Midlands Metals that were handed over by the company’s director, Dr Staben Karimazondo. The province also received a portable ventilator from Dr Thomas Ndebele. Sunday News