Tuesday, January 19, 2021

SA suspends acceptance of Botswana emergency travel documents

The South African government has suspended the use of Botswana’s emergency passports by Batswana travelling to South Africa.

A press release from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs forwarded to the Telegraph on Monday indicates that the South African government took the decision not to allow single page emergency travel documents (ETD) until further notice.

The document states that the South African government will only allow the ETDs on cases that have been proven to be emergencies, such as in medical cases. Even so such cases would need consultation or approval from the South African High Commission in Gaborone.

The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs revealed in the document that currently the passports cost P260 and take up to 14 days to be issued. The express service is said to be costing an additional P130 and will be issued within 24 hours.

The press release further stipulates that the applications for this passport can only be made through their headquarters in Gaborone, Hukuntsi, Tsabong and Ghanzi because these are the only places which have so far rolled out the new E- Passport and a border control system. An inside source from the Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs revealed to the Telegraph that last week on Friday, the ministry received an overwhelming number of complaints from Batswana who were denied access into South Africa using the documents, and hitherto the South African High Commissioner has not given any reason as to why the travel documents have been suspended from use.

The Head of Passports at the Immigration Head Office in Gaborone, Masire Masire, told the Telegraph that they received the instruction on short notice last week to the effect that the travel document be suspended but the South African High Commission never revealed reasons why the document had to be suspended.

“I suspect that the government of South Africa could have frozen the use of the document due to security reasons because of the looming World Cup┬áGames that are due to start this week,” he said.
He also confirmed to the Telegraph that indeed there were complaints from Batswana who were denied entry at the South African Border gate due to the suspension of the travel document, adding that this had also caused a problem for the department due to long queues of people trying to apply for a normal passport.

Masire said that the problem of queues is also due to the fact that there are only four places where the new passport can be acquired being, Gaborone, Ghanzi, Hukuntsi and Tsabong. He added that the Ministry is currently in discussions with the South African High Commission.

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