GABORONE - Botswana’s strict COVID-19 border checks have riled truck drivers, who say they spend days waiting to be cleared. Botswana has so far confirmed only 35 COVID-19 cases and one death but began requiring the border testing amid rising concerns about imported infections.
Truck drivers are growing frustrated with long delays at Botswana’s borders due to required COVID-19 testing.
The truckers say they wait for up to five days before being cleared to deliver goods in Botswana, or transit through the country.
Zambian truck driver Amon Phiri complains there are no washing facilities at the border check post, and they run out of food while waiting for test results.
“We are frustrated with the situation going on. We have been kept in Botswana for about five days now, no results. And we are all truck drivers gathered in one place," he said. "We are being kept here with a single toilet, no water and no food. We are using the bush to answer the call of nature.”
Phiri urged Botswana authorities to speed up the testing.
“We were told the results will be out in 72 hours, but up to now nothing has come out. We are appealing to authorities to take action,” he said.
South African truck driver Malusi Dlamini says the delays have led to tensions across the border in South Africa.
He says some South African truckers are threatening to block trucks entering from Botswana if the situation is not resolved.
"It is a frustrating situation. We hope it is addressed soon before tensions boil over. There are long queues of up to 10 kilometers of trucks waiting to be cleared," he said.
Botswana truck drivers are also subjected to COVID-19 tests when they re-enter the country.
Landlocked Botswana imports about two-thirds of its goods from South Africa.
Botswana’s COVID-19 taskforce team head Dr. Kereng Masupu acknowledged the challenges faced by truck drivers.
But he says remedial action cannot be taken overnight. Steps will be taken to improve the lives of drivers while awaiting their results, says Masupu, and their welfare should be taken seriously as they provide an essential service.
Botswana introduced COVID-19 testing for truck drivers after confirming several imported cases of the coronavirus from truckers in the past week.