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SA free of all Covid-19 regulations – but no word on when closed border posts will reopen

Business Insider SA
Pekabridge border post, between South Africa and Lesotho (Wikimedia Commons).
Pekabridge border post, between South Africa and Lesotho (Wikimedia Commons).
  • South Africa's Covid-19 regulations were effectively scrapped on Wednesday evening.
  • This includes no more face mask mandates, limits on social gatherings, or entry requirements for travellers coming to South Africa.
  • There is, however, one issue still lingering from lockdown: the continued closure of 30 border posts connecting South Africa with Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, and eSwatini.
  • These posts have been closed since the start of the pandemic because the health department hasn't had the capacity to deploy additional officials to uphold Covid-19 entry measures, according to Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
  • But now, with Covid-19 entry requirements a thing of the past, these posts should, in theory, be free to open, the department of health told Business Insider SA.
  • Home affairs hasn't indicated when – or even if – all these border posts will reopen.
  • For more stories go to www.BusinessInsider.co.za.

The only remaining remnant of South Africa's pandemic-induced lockdown is the continued closure of 30 border posts, with no word from the department of home affairs on when, or even if, all will reopen.

All of South Africa's Covid-19 regulations were effectively scrapped on Wednesday evening, with the issuing of a gazette signed by Health Minister Joe Phaahla. The wearing of face masks is no longer mandatory in public indoor spaces or when on public transport. Restrictions on the size of social gatherings have also fallen away, as have entry requirements for travellers coming to South Africa.

There is, however, one lingering aspect of South Africa's lockdown regulations which hasn't officially been dealt with. That's the continued closure of 30 border posts connecting South Africa to neighbouring countries.

Border closures have been a staple feature in South Africa – and the world's – response to Covid-19. During the harshest levels of lockdown, travel to and from South Africa, by land or air, was restricted.

Lower levels of lockdown brought a partial reopening of the country's borders. By the time South Africa's national state of disaster in response to Covid-19 was officially terminated in early April, less than half of South Africa's more than 53 land borders with neighbouring countries had reopened.

At least 30 border posts were still closed at the time of government's repeal of remaining Covid-19 regulations on Wednesday.

These continued border closures were confirmed during a parliamentary question and answer session at the end of May. Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi, in a written reply to DA MP Adrian Roos, said that the "reopening of each border post is dependent on the department of health."

"Enforcement of health protocols remains a critical requirement, and with the absence of that capability, the border posts cannot be reopened," Motsoaledi said at the time.

Travellers coming into South Africa no longer need to prove they've been vaccinated against Covid-19 or supply a negative test result for entry, negating the need for the "enforcement of health protocols" and additional Port Health resources, previously cited by Motsoaledi.

"The border posts were closed because there was no workforce to manage, control, and verify the vaccination status of people," Foster Mohale, the health department's director of media relations, told Business Insider SA on Thursday.

"It means now they [borders] will open because if that was the main reason they were closed, it means now they will be opening… unless home affairs have got other issues to deal with."

The borders which remained closed, as highlighted by Motsoaledi in his parliamentary reply, are located between South Africa and Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, and eSwatini.

These include Sendelingsdrift, Onseepkans, Rietfontein, Middelsputs, Mc Carthys Rest, Makopong; Bray, Makgobistad, Swartkopfontein, Derdepoort, Stockpoort, Platjan, Pondrift, Giriyondo, Josefsdal, Nerston, Emahlathini, Bothashoop; Waverley, Onverwacht, Monontshapass, Pekabridge, Sephaposgate, Makhaleng, Boesmansnek, Ongelusknek, and Ramatsidiso.

The department of home affairs didn't respond to Business Insider's questions about when these border posts would reopen. Siya Qoza, spokesperson for the minister of home affairs, did, however, confirm that there was a "meeting with external parties" in Pretoria to discuss the issue.

This article will be updated with the department of home affairs' responses when available.

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