By Mashudu Netsianda
Travellers entering South Africa using fake Covid-19-free certificates will be denied entry into that country and subsequently issued with a five-year travel ban.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) guidelines, travellers must produce Covid-19 clearance certificates issued by a recognised health facility 48 hours before leaving their country.
Most local laboratories charge around US$60 for the certificates and this has resulted in the mushrooming of scammers who are issuing fake certificates for as little as US$20.
The fake certificates have been circulating on social media and recently some people tried to use fake 48-hour Covid-19 certificates allegedly issued by a Bulawayo laboratory to cross into South Africa through Beitbridge Border Post.
Last week, two Harare men appeared in court on allegations of defrauding unsuspecting people by manufacturing and selling fake Covid-19 certificates.
The suspects were arrested after a detective approached the suspects posing as a prospective client.
The detective said he needed a Covid-19 certificate indicating he had tested negative to the virus as he wanted to travel to South Africa the following day.
He was charged US$30 for the service but the detective proposed payment of US$20 as deposit saying he would pay the balance of US$10 after receiving the document.
It is alleged that the two accused persons created a fake Covid-19 document which showed that he had been tested and was Covid-19 negative. The fake document was purported to have originated from GENAU Laboratory situated at number 52, Baines Avenue, Harare.
The new regulation, which was announced by South Africa’s Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, comes as the neighbouring country reopens its 20 inland ports of entry, including Beitbridge Border Post, to the generality of travellers.
However, on the Zimbabwean side, the border remains closed to general human travel as part of the level four lockdown regulations. Zimbabwe closed its borders to general human traffic on January 3.
President Mnangagwa is today expected to announce new lockdown measures with the current regulations expiring at midday.
The closure of Beitbridge Border Post, the busiest inland port of entry in sub-Saharan Africa that is shared by Zimbabwe and South Africa, affects mostly Zimbabweans who rely on cross-border trade.
South Africa closed its borders with Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, Eswatini, Namibia and Mozambique on January 11 as part of measures to control the spread of a new strain of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, despite the closure of the borders, people were still allowed to move for purposes of transportation of fuel, cargo and goods as well as emergency medical attention for a life-threatening condition.
In a statement, Dr Motsoaledi said travellers found with fake Covid-19 certificates will be barred from entering South Africa for five years. “Any person presenting themselves at any of our borders with fake Covid-19 certificates will be denied entry and barred from visiting South Africa for a period of at least five years. We appeal to travellers to ensure that they have all the requisite travel documents, including valid Covid-19 tests, when they present themselves to officials at our borders,” he said.
“Truck drivers should adhere to laws, regulations and agreements in place in the border area. This will go a long way in minimising congestion.”
Dr Motsoaledi said the management of people through borders remained an important part of South Africa’s strategy to control the spread of Covid-19.
“In the past four weeks the department has increased its engagements with officials in neighbouring countries, provinces with land borders and other stakeholders to improve co-ordination of efforts. The aim of these engagements was to share plans and ensure seamless movement of travellers and goods to minimise the chances of border crossings being super-spreader events,” he said.
Dr Motsoaledi will today visit Lebombo Border Post between South Africa and Mozambique while his deputy, Mr Njabulo Nzuza will tour Beitbridge Border Post to monitor the implementation of plans to process travellers through the ports.
The South African government made the decision to reopen the 20 inland border posts to ordinary travellers on Saturday.
Dr Motsoaledi also announced that holders of legally issued Intra-Company Transfer (ICT) visas who are residing in South Africa are now allowed to apply for another term of 24 months. The waiver is applicable to holders of ICT visas that expired during the lockdown, including the current period and to those which will expire by June 30, 2021.
An ICT is a type of work visa that allows for a staff member to transfer from a multi-national company to a branch, subsidiary or affiliated business that is operating in South Africa.
The ICT option is only appropriate where the employee is required in South Africa for a maximum period of four years.
“This temporary visa concession is only applicable to holders of legally issued intra-company visas who are resident in South Africa during the lockdown. Any further extension or modification or amendments to the terms of this concession will only be valid if communicated in writing,” said Dr Motsoaledi. The Chronicle