GABORONE, BOTSWANA - Trucker Wisiso Balathi used to look forward to his daily drive from his home country, Botswana, to pick up goods in neighboring South Africa.
But since the COVID-19 pandemic, border trips for truckers like him have become a nightmare of being tested and forced to wait up to five days for results.
Balathi says the conditions at the border check are awful, with no food vendors or proper toilets. At times, he thinks of quitting his job.
However, officials in Botswana say with nearly half-a-million cases of the fast-spreading virus in South Africa, testing people who cross the border is vital.
After Botswana recorded a new daily record for confirmed cases, truckers are being watched carefully.
"These are largely border cases, 80% of the 50 cases (recorded in one day) were non-citizens, so it tells a story where the threat level or the pressure of risk is based,” Dr. Kereng Masupu said. “It is at the border."
Analyst Lawrence Ookeditse says the pandemic should be a wake-up call for Botswana’s reliance on South African goods.
"COVID has proved that the country is in a precarious position, particularly if you look at its dependence on South Africa,” Ookeditse said. “The country needs to get to a point where it can depend on itself for a number of vitals.We import literally everything."
Botswana’s government figures show South Africa accounted for nearly three quarters of the country’s imports as of April this year.
For the moment, nothing has changed, and the truckers remain vulnerable to the coronavirus.Of Botswana’s 739 COVID-19 cases, 620 have been truck drivers testing positive at the country’s entry points.