Botswana Issues Travel Warning Over South Africa Unrest
By Mqondisi Dube September 5, 2019
The Botswana government has issued a travel warning to its citizens over the growing unrest in South Africa. The attacks, targeting foreign nationals in South Africa, are likely to affect Botswana, which is dependent on its neighbor for food imports and petroleum products.
Mpho Keitumetse is a cross-border trader who buys second-hand clothes in Johannesburg, for resale in her home country, Botswana.
However, her business has come to a standstill since attacks targeting foreign nationals in South Africa broke out last week.
Keitumetse has been forced to stay home until the situation improves.
"The attacks in South Africa are really bad for business," Keitumetse said. "They are affecting us all. As neighboring countries, we do business together. Ever since these attacks started, I have not been able to deliver on my business because I buy my stock from South Africa. Everything has been put on hold, for how long I don't know."
While Botswana immigration officials say it has been business as usual at entry points, taxi operators are not taking chances, with some, like Mompati Kobe, grounding their fleet.
Kobe argues it is too risky to drive to Johannesburg where most of the attacks have occurred.
"These unrests have really affected us," Kobe said. "It is now difficult to take our vehicles there because you never know, they might burn them. Some of the vehicles are not insured. For now, we have grounded our services until the situation calms down."
Botswana imports two-thirds of its goods from South Africa, which includes petroleum products. While the country has allayed fears of looming fuel shortages, fuel truck drivers are not prepared to risk their lives by crossing into South Africa.
Albert Phiri, a Zambian truck driver who works for a South African fuel company, has been stuck in Botswana since the start of the week, afraid of driving back to Johannesburg.
"Our trucks are grounded, I have been at the border since the start of the week," Phiri said. "We can't cross for fear of violence. I don't even know when I will cross to South Africa, I fear for my life, but at the same time, I still want to keep my job."
Gaborone-based political analyst Lawrence Ookeditse says all affected countries should voice their concerns to the South African government and bring back their emissaries if necessary.
"In the event that the South Africans are not responding adequately, then they (affected countries) need to immediately consider all options, and all options including recalling their envoys or ambassadors," Ookeditse said.
While Botswana issued a warning to citizens about traveling to South Africa, the country's president, Mokgweetsi Masisi, flew to Cape Town on Tuesday for the World Economic Forum on Africa.
Leaders from the Democratic Republic of Congo, Malawi and Rwanda have pulled out of the meeting, amid concerns over the deteriorating situation.
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