With government’s recent decision to gradually reopen borders previously closed because of Covid-19, the Mata Mata and Klein Menassa borders present some challenges to both visitors and residents.
When New Era visited these facilities recently, it became evident that it posed health and safety hazards. Personnel, who spoke on condition of anonymity, bemoaned the lack of basic services such as insufficient clean drinking water, proper sanitation, and poor communication infrastructure, among others.
“We are receiving a small tank of clean drinking water once a month from K?es, which at times does not last until the next delivery,” explained one staff member at Mata Mata entry point.
The official said the water they access through a tower is rather salty and unhealthy for the body’s hygiene and that it also damages toilet pot systems, causing them to malfunction.
“Should the borders reopen, this might become an embarrassment if visitors need to use bathroom facilities,” the source expressed this concern.
Another staff member also complained they used to receive electricity from a generator, charged by batteries, but that one of the power boxes burnt and the batteries are no longer functioning due to their expired life span. ‘’Our only source of electricity now is the solar panel, but with these freezing temperatures, it is not generating enough energy from the sun most of the times. It becomes pitch dark here at night, which is really a safety concern for us,” lamented a staffer.
Other obstacles, according to them, are that the shade erected for visitors in times of hot weather or rains has been damaged by strong winds, and there is also no signboard on the Namibian side.
“The structures in which we are accommodated are furthermore in a dilapidated state and all these challenges are posing health and safety challenges for us and soon to be expected visitors,” the personnel member added. In conclusion, they said despite numerous attempts of reporting of these obstacles, the responsible authorities to rectify this critical situation have done nothing.
At the Klein Menassa border post, the situation does rather not look promising. Similarly to Mata Mata, there are challenges with regard to proper sanitation. This reporter found large pools of spilt sewerage at the facility, as most flush toilets are not functioning.
There is also no shade in place for visitors, whilst the offices are in a deplorable state, with doors broken. Road Fund Administration and Namibian Police Force members employed at the border post also bemoaned the absence of a tower that makes access to the internet impossible. “We cannot use our cellphones here, neither can we access radio and television services,” they raised the concern. They also said the landlines installed are furthermore only partially functional.
In terms of crime committed at both the Namibian and South African side of the Klein Manassa border post, Warrant Officer Peter Jacob said Namibians are suspected of illegally crossing to the other side to buy cannabis or sell cigarettes illegally against profit in South Africa, where it was banned as that country’s measures of curbing further spread of Covid-19.
“We have arrested four suspects since the closure of the border, who have then been placed under quarantine first before being prosecuted further, but we did not find any new cases, as the Namibian police are continuously monitoring our side of the border,” he explained.
When approached for comment, acting regional representative for the Ministry of Works and Transport in the //Kharas region Ileni Nghishekwa said council previously appointed contractors to pump the sewerage at both border posts, but the function was now taken over by the Road Fund Administration of Namibia.
“Our ministry, like other line ministries, has a maintenance budget for repairs and replacement of government equipment and infrastructure; our office has most of the time carried out these activities, provided it is within our budgetary provisions,” he added.
Nghishekwa went on that for major repairs and replacements, ministries usually assist, where the works ministry issues a bill of quantities from contractors for these line ministries to bear the costs involved.
“We do, however, forward a bill of quantities for works to be done at Klein Menassa border post to the Customs and Excise Office in Keetmanshoop early last year,” he said.
The works ministry official added they are still awaiting the purchase order from the customs office before appointing a contractor to carry out the works.
In terms of shades and name boards at the two border posts, he said work on it is nearly completed on those removed from the closed Holweg border and will be put in place at Mata Mata and Klein Menassa border posts, respectively.
Questions forwarded to the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Safety and Security’s public relations officer Sakeus Kadhikwa remained unanswered despite follow-ups, and efforts to contact the officials at the two border posts seemed futile.