South Africa has announced that it will build a fence along its border with Zimbabwe to prevent undocumented migrants from entering and spreading coronavirus, even though neighboring country Zimbabwe is yet to record a case.
The fence will be erected on either side of the Beitbridge Land Port of Entry to “ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country,” Patricia de Lille, the public works minister, said in a statement on Thursday.
South Africa, as of Friday, has had 202 confirmed cases of the virus and no deaths. As part of emergency measures, President Cyril Ramaphosa recently ordered 35 of 53 land entry points closed.
This measure, according to de Lille, will “not be effective if the fences at the border are not secure, which in many places, they are not.”
“All 40km of fence will be finished within one month. Local labour will be sourced by the contractor.
“We are certainly not xenophobic. We have had thorough consultations with all the countries that are our neighbors. What is important for South Africa is to protect our own citizens and people coming into our country because at the border post now, you’ve got health inspectors and you’ve got environmental professionals and they are doing the testing and screening at the border. But if somebody just walks over the border, there are no such facilities,” she said.
Scores of Zimbabweans have been living in South Africa after fleeing their country amid economic woes and political violence.
South Africa has been making moves to reduce irregular migration from Zimbabwe in order to save local jobs for its own citizens.
Coronavirus, officially known as COVID_19, has killed more than 7,000 people and affected over 200,000 worldwide since it emerged last December.
In Africa, which has been among the last to be hit by the global pandemic, about 33 countries have confirmed cases, with 13 reported deaths.
Countries around the world have also canceled flights while tightening controls at borders to prevent the spread of the deadly virus.