Mozambican authorities have detained 16 buses that were travelling to South Africa to repatriate about 378 Malawians seeking to return home amid the coronavirus pandemic and a lockdown in the Rainbow Nation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation Kondwani Nankhumwa acknowledged the situation in an interview yesterday, but said the matter has since been resolved.
The minister said the buses are expected to proceed with their trip this week following talks between the Malawi Government and Mozambique Government on the matter.
Said Nankhumwa: “We have been discussing with Maputo and the matter has finally been resolved. The buses are expected to start off this week.”
The buses have been held at Zobue for a week as Mozambique border authorities said they were only allowing essential goods to pass through as a control measure to avoid the further spread of the pandemic.
In the past weeks, about 700 Malawians have returned home from South Africa and Zimbabwe through the same route after the Malawi Government facilitated their passage.
But Nankhumwa said the detention of the buses does not mean that government is relaxed on facilitating clearance for the Malawians, most of whom were facing economic hardships due to stiff lockdown conditions.
Speaking on condition of anonymity on Saturday, one of the bus drivers stranded at Zobue—about five kilometres from Mwanza Border Post—said they were told to park the buses upon arrival with no explanation a threat while in transit, on arrival and at their final destinations.repatriated Malawians do not pose
He said that, among others, buses repatriating the Malawians are being directed to carry 75 percent of the sitting capacity to ensure they observe social distancing.
“We are strengthening primary healthcare. Let’s say in terms of destination of the returnees where we involve health surveillance assistants [HSAs] and community volunteers, among others, to support the returnees if need be,” Phuka said.
He also said they have strengthened the testing capacity at the point of entry, specifically Mwanza Border Post.
Two weeks ago, about 441 Malawians repatriated from South Africa fled Kamuzu Stadium in Blantyre where they were temporarily being kept awaiting their laboratory results.
In an interview following the incident, Blantyre District director of health and social services Dr. Gift Kawalazira said since they knew their destinations, they are going to trace the escaped returnees through various respective district health offices (DHOs).
But he said if the worse comes to the worst, they would publish the names for the public to help in their tracking.
Malawi’s Covid-19 cases have sharply risen to 438 with imported cases at 376 and returnees from South Africa accounting for most of the cases.