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18,000 repatriated home since 2020

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Rejoice Shumba

Eighteen thousand Malawians have returned home from South Africa, through self-repatriation, since the first coronavirus case was registered here last year, the Department of Immigration and Citizenship Services has said.

The Covid pandemic has resulted in a series of lockdowns in the Rainbow Nation, significantly reducing the level of economic activities that Malawians in that country depend on.

The repatriation exercise was initiated last year after officials from Malawi and South Africa negotiated the safe return of Malawians from that country through Mwanza Border and Dedza Border.

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Mwanza Border spokesperson Pasqually Zulu said, apart from the 18,000 that have already arrived back home, more people are expected to trickle in.

“The Malawi Embassy in South Africa has indicated that more buses are likely going to come this week upon finalisation of Covid tests on the returnees since it is a requirement as per government’s instructions,” he said.

When asked to ascertain the number of Malawians who are on the waiting list to come back home, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesperson Rejoice Shumba said there was no specific number.

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She said the number depends on decisions those in South Africa make based on individuals’ socio-economic situations.

“You should not conclude that all of them are returning home because of Covid. Some of them are just coming back because it is their home,” Shumba said.

On Friday last week, at least 1,314 self-repatriated Malawians travelling on 23 buses returned home through the same border.

According to Zulu, when they arrived at the border, all security checks, travel document checks and health protocols were observed.

Cumulatively, South Africa has recorded over 1.4 million cases of Covid, out of which 1.2 million patients have recovered and about 40,000 people have died so far.

In a bid to contain the spread of Covid, the South African government announced a third lockdown in December last year.

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