Ramokgwebana reopens as the people trickle in
On Tuesday 1 December, eight months after Covid-19 forced Botswana to close her borders, the country tentatively opened up again.
To mark this momentous occasion, The Voice’s CHRISTINAH MOTLHABANE journeyed from her Francistown base to the Ramokgwebana border, which divides Botswana from Zimbabwe.
The 70km road leading to the border is surprisingly quiet, with only a single Zim-registration plate passing in the opposite direction.
Similarly, the border-post initially appears deserted; perhaps we’ve got the wrong day and Ramokgwebana is still shut?
On closer inspection, we spot three Zimbabweans preparing to depart the country.
At the arrival gates, two women sit beside their bulky luggage, patiently waiting to be taken to quarantine.
As they wait, the pair animatedly discuss the ‘extortionate’ fee they had to pay for their Covid-19 tests.
Disgruntled combi drivers, leaning despondently against their empty vehicles, can also be overheard complaining about the lack of customers.
This is their tales from the border……
I am very happy with the opening of the borders as I am going to meet my mother who has been sick since the lockdown.
The cost of traveling is high together with the US$60 one has to pay for a Covid-19 test but I was forced to come here.
I am a teacher in Zimbabwe and my mother is a Motswana from Makaleng.
When the borders were closed she was in Botswana.
I have been worried sick as everything was beyond my control.
As soon as I heard the borders are being opened I asked for 14 leave days from work so I can rush here.
But I am just scared with the alarming Covid-19 numbers that I might be closed here in Botswana.
The Coronavirus pandemic affected me badly as I could not do my things the way I had planned.
I missed my mother and relatives very much, that is why I could not wait when I heard the borders are being opened.
I came to Botswana in January for some piece-jobs in Palapye, and I’ve been stranded there ever since!
Although the charges for Covid are a bit high I want to encourage my friends to find some part-time work so they can afford the test and go to their mother country to meet their parents.
It is not a good thing to stay in a foreign country for long.
I came here to do some piece jobs and lockdown found me here.
Now when I came to the border this morning I was told to go back to do the Covid tests.
I do not know where they are being conducted and if it is for free?
I am really stressed as I wanted to go to my family.
I went to Zimbabwe in March this year and just as I was set to return the borders closed.
I am a Motswana married in Zimbabwe but I stay in Maun most of the time.
I was devastated as I kept wondering when I will get back to Botswana to plow as I do most of my things here.
When I heard the borders had reopened I got excited that at last, I will be able to plow.
In Zimbabwe life is very hard as everything is expensive so I am glad to be back home.
My child, I am very happy to be in Botswana.
As you can see, I am eating pumpkin seeds; I can’t afford to buy a meal because I am broke.
I went to Zimbabwe on the 15th of February intending to return but the borders were closed.
It was not easy for me to stay in Zim for so long as things there cost so much.
Food is very expensive and we hardly ate meat as it is not easy to find.
When someone kills and sells cow meat people flock there and it finishes fast.
To make matters worse, they use foreign currency, like US Dollars and South African Rands.
I am married in Zimbabwe but I come from Kalamare in Botswana.
I missed my pension money for nine months while I was in Zimbabwe.
Once I get my pension, the first thing I will do is buy chicken meat and coke so I fulfill my heart as it missed nice food.
I’m a combi driver and I wasted my 3-litre petrol for coming here as since I arrived at 6 am I have not worked.
It is now 3 in the afternoon and still nothing!
I thought since the borders have been opened the Zimbaweans will come in large numbers but that has not happened.
Only one combi loaded five people here.
We hear public transport in Zimbabwe has still not been lifted and is not allowed to travel to the border.
We combi drivers have not worked today as the Zimbabweans have a problem with the Covid test results.
They are unable to pay for the tests to be conducted.
Even those in Botswana were returned back at the border as they did not have the results.
As a permit holder of public transport here at Ramokgwebana border we have a problem as our clients did not make it to Botswana.
I only saw four people coming from Zimabwe, I wonder how we are going to survive as our permits are also expiring and we do not have money to renew.