83 South Africans ordered out

83 South Africans ordered out

MASERU-THERE was confusion this week after a group of 83 South Africans who were to work at Polihali Dam illegally entered into Lesotho.
The South Africans have since been ordered out of Lesotho for violating Covid-19 restrictions.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator, Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary, Covid-19 Command Centre officials and the police all refused to take blame for the confusion.
Police spokesman Superintendent Mpiti Mopeli told thepost that the police do not know who gave permission to the South Africans to enter the country.

He said he also does not know why the 83 were not arrested and charged before a magistrate instead of being ordered to go back to their country.
“It is the District Administrator who has such answers,” Superintendent Mopeli said.

“It is the District Administrators who are the chief accounting officers for Covid-19 Command Centres at district level,” he said.
The Foreign Affairs Principal Secretary for Foreign Affairs, Pheko Lerotholi, said he should not be asked about the case as it is squarely on the shoulders of the National Emergency Covid-19 Command Centre.

The NECC chief accounting officer, ’Nena Matete, said the issue was between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Health and not the NECC.
“How these people entered the country and who was responsible for giving them a pass to come into Lesotho is beyond me,” Matete said.
“I am aware the PS’ in the designated ministries were working on this issue,” he said.

He said what they have done is to follow and track the South Africans’ movement in case there is a case of coronavirus.
“We sent our analysis team to where they were and they have been tracing their movement,” he said.
Matete said the police are the law enforcers and they had to play their part if this was an illegal crossing or a crossing that defied the covid-19 regulations.

The Mokhotlong District Administrator, Serame Linake, said he received information from the community surrounding Polihali that tens of South Africans had entered the country.
Linake said he investigated and found that they were not at any quarantine or self-isolation centre.

He however said they realised they did not have a quarantine facility to keep the South Africans.
“We then decided that they should return to their country because we could not keep them in custody or in isolation until such a time that they can appear before a magistrate,” Linake said.

He said people who came into contact with them have already been tested and are on self-isolation.
Linake could not confirm how many people had been tested.
The South Africans are said to have slept in Butha-Buthe before driving to Maseru for a consultation with the South African High Commission.
By last night, they were still held up in Lesotho. The workers declined to speak to the media.

In a statement yesterday, the government said some of the workers who had entered Lesotho did not have any work permits.
It also wondered who had allowed them into Lesotho when the borders between the two countries were closed due to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The workers are from a South African construction company, Rumdel Construction (Cape) Pty Ltd.

The Lesotho Highlands Development Authority (LHDA), which manages the Polihali Dam, says it requested all the South African based consultants and contractors working on Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project (LHWP) to submit a list of their workers who needed to re-enter Lesotho.
Part of the information that the LHDA requested includes the passport number, the work permit number and resident number for each worker.

“There was a communication breakdown and the LHDA has learned that about 83 South African residents working for one of the Phase II construction contractors, Rumdel Construction (Cape) Pty Ltd, crossed the border into Lesotho and proceeded to the construction site in Polihali, Mokhotlong district,” the LHDA said in a statement. 
“Rumdel submitted its risk mitigation plan on 1 May 2020,” it said.
The LHDA says it is engaging with the two governments, through the Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWP), regarding acceptable measures that could be implemented to ensure safe re-entry of LHWP workers into the country and further quarantine requirements in collaboration with the Ministry of Health.

“The Government of Lesotho through relevant authorities made the decision to repatriate back to South Africa those 71 employees who do not have work permits. This process has commenced,” the LHDA says.
However, the 12 South African workers in possession of valid work permits were given the option of returning to the management camp in Polihali and to self-quarantine.

The Contractor concluded that it would be impractical to resume work with such a small number, the LHDA says.

Rose Moremoholo

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