MORE than 80 trucks carrying various cargo, including copper from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) en route to South Africa, are marooned in the border town of Kazungula because Botswana officials have refused to allow them entry into that country due to the fear of “importing” Ebola.
Anthony Abel, a truck driver from Global Marketers, a South African company, said five trucks belonging to his firm are stuck in Kazungula.
Mr Abel said the problem started on Monday afternoon when the DRC confirmed its first case of the Ebola virus.
He said trucks from DRC are allowed into Zambia but not into Botswana whose authorities are said to be taking this as a precaution against spreading Ebola into their country.
“The problem is not on the Zambian side but on the Botswana side. Most of us are South Africans. As long as you have papers stamped in Congo, you are not allowed to cross into Botswana,” he said.
Mr Abel said regardless of one’s nationality, drivers whose passports have DRC stamps are not allowed into Botswana.
He said travellers from Zambia are allowed into Botswana for as long as their passports do not have DRC stamps.
“We don’t know how long this will take. I loaded copper from DRC to South Africa. I have been here for four days. This problem started late Monday afternoon,” he said.
Mr Abel said he contacted the Botswana authorities who told him to contact the South African Embassy in Zambia for further details.
Last week, the South African government imposed a travel ban on non-citizens arriving from Ebola-affected Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone.
“There is nothing one can load in DRC apart from copper and cobalt. We have to wait for arrangements between the governments of Zambia and Botswana. We are comfortable here in Zambia,” he said.
Kazungula district commissioner Pascalina Musokotwane described the development as unfortunate.
“What I know is that Government has taken measures in terms of screening for and controlling Ebola.
“I can’t comment much since the trucks are allowed on the Zambian side and not on the Botswana side,” she said.
And Deputy Minister of Health Chitalu Chilufya said Government has not banned or closed the border at Kasumbalesa but has only restricted entry and issued a travel advisory.
“We have up-scaled surveillance activities at Kasumbalesa border, installed a scanner and we are using infra-red thermometers to screen people coming in. We believe that the measures put in place are adequate and we will be reviewing the situation,” he said.
Dr Chilufya said Government is following international health regulation by restricting entry and screening those entering the country.
“We have restricted entry, but that does not mean we have banned entry into Zambia. People coming from Ebola-prone countries will be screened, and if found wanting will be quarantined. This is what we are doing and it is in line with international health regulations,” he said.
Some sources at Kazungula border said authorities in Botswana were willing to allow truckers from the DRC into their country as long as the Zambian government thoroughly screened them.
By press time yesterday, some truck drivers from DRC had started returning to Livingstone in an attempt to connect to South Africa through Victoria Falls Town in Zimbabwe.
Zambia Daily Mail