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‘OUR LIVELIHOOD DEPENDS ON INFORMAL CROSSINGS’

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PIGG’S PEAK – Along the borderline, emaSwati live side by side with South Africans so much that some claim they do not even realise that these are two different countries.


For this reason, many of them travel to South Africa (SA) daily either to attend school, church or do shopping in the neighbouring country using informal crossings.


Some also have wives in SA or families they visit every weekend.
Thousands of emaSwati and South Africans use informal crossings to enter and leave Eswatini for various reasons, including personal and business.


The informal crossings should not be confused with illegal entry points used by ‘border jumpers’.
The informal crossings are manned by members of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) and according to the army, their purpose is to assist any person living within the borderline to enter or leave the country.


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Some residents in these borderline communities also share the same chiefs and use informal crossings when attending umphakatsi meetings.


With three cases of COVID-19 (coronavirus) now confirmed in SA, it has become riskier for emaSwati to travel to that country.
Unlike normal border gates where equipment is available and used to scan travellers, this is not the case at informal crossings.
However, during a visit to Mhlangatane, Timphisini and Emvembili where many people frequently use informal crossings to enter SA, residents there said it would be impossible for them to stop using informal crossings.


Yesterday, the Times of Eswatini SUNDAY reported that the government had announced the need to seal informal crossings.
Unlike normal borders where passports are required, all that is needed at an informal crossing is identification as their purpose is to ensure that people living along the borderline of both countries are able to travel.


Closing the informal crossings was one way the government intended to prevent the spread of COVID-19 into Eswatini.
However, some of the residents who were interviewed, particularly around Mhlangatane, said it was not possible to avoid travelling to SA.


They said some of them travelled to SA for medical reasons regularly and vice versa.
“It is not just emaSwati who travel to South Africa, they (South Africans) also come to our country daily,” said one of the residents.


Transport operators who ferry travellers to and fro the informal crossings also said it would not be possible for people to stop using informal crossings.
“What the government should do instead is to bring us more medical personnel,” said the transport operators.


They said the reason people opted to use informal crossings was that using normal border gates was costly.
It would cost between E100 to E200 extra for people in communities around Mhlangatane to enter SA if they were to use border gates such as Matsamo and Mananga instead of just walking through the informal crossing at no cost.

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