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MBABANE – Following the alleged shooting of two people by members of UEDF, who border-jumped into South Africa (SA), their South African counterparts have shutdown informal crossings near Matsamo.

UEDF is the Umbutfo Eswatini Defense Force. Informal crossings are not to be confused with illegal border crossings. The informal crossing is guarded by soldiers but unlike normal border gates, there are no immigration or customs officials. At informal crossings, one is not expected to use a passport though identification is required. Also, one is not allowed to transport commercial goods via the informal crossing. About three weeks ago, this publication reported an incident in which two men were allegedly shot by South African soldiers. One of the men is said to have died of the gunshot wounds, while the second one had to be admitted to a hospital in South Africa.

It was also gathered that both men were from Eswatini. After the alleged shooting, the South African National Defense Force (SANDF) is said to have retaliated by guarding the Matsamo Border Post surrounding areas. This is also the same area where one of the informal crossings was situated.
In many countries around the world, sharing of borders has resulted in people living along the borderline, finding it easier to enter a foreign country for nearby facilities such as hospitals, schools or shops. Such examples include Mexico and the United States of America, Botswana and Namibia, or Zambia, Tanzania and Malawi.

People who live near the border frequently travel to the neighbouring country using the border or illegally. In Eswatini, soldiers manning sections of the borderline allowed emaSwati to enter the country. This publication gathered that nearly 1 000 emaSwati walk in and out of the country using the informal crossing near the Matsamo Border. After the shooting incident that left one person dead and also the high rate of crime, it was gathered that the soldiers were no longer allowing emaSwati to pass through.


According to some of the residents who normally use the closed informal crossing, they were now stranded as some of them work in the neighbouring country yet live in Eswatini. *Jomo, who is a liSwati who relies on the informal crossing, the closure of the informal crossing means that he was not able to buy some groceries at the nearby shops. He said instead of travelling to Pigg’s Peak, Buhleni or Mbabane, he preferred entering South Africa through the informal crossing to purchase his goods. He said there were also some who were teachers and entered the country daily, but that the closure of the informal crossing had affected them.

Since the informal crossings are manned by army personnel, Lieutenant Tengetile Khumalo, who is the Public Affairs Officer of the Umbutfo Eswatini Defense Force (UEDF), was reached for comment but she referred questions to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation. Thuli Dladla, the Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, when called said she was not aware of the informal crossing. However, she said more research needed to be done on informal crossing and what their original purpose was. She said it was possible that the South African army may have acted after noticing that there was an issue. She stressed that the country’s government had not communicated anything. The minister was also asked if there were any agreements between the two countries regarding the use of the informal crossings.  She said there was a need to do a ‘deeper homework’.
*Not real name.

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