SOUTH African immigration officials are refusing to accept Covid-19 vaccination cards issued by the Lesotho government amid concerns about their authenticity.
The neighbouring country’s immigration officials are insisting that Basotho should continue presenting negative Covid-19 test certificates not older than 72 hours as part of the requirements for entry into South Africa.
This is despite that three weeks ago, South African President Cyril Ramaphosa relaxed the stringent Covid-19 induced entry requirements.
Mr Ramaphosa had said that people who had been fully vaccinated against the virus no longer needed to present negative Covid-19 test results whenever they wanted to visit South Africa. A vaccination card showing that they had been fully jabbed against the virus would suffice, Mr Ramaphosa had said. Only those who had either not been fully vaccinated or not been vaccinated at all would have to continue presenting negative Covid-19 test results to be allowed entry into South Africa, he said.
But despite the announcement, vaccination cards issued by Lesotho’s Health ministry are being rejected at South Africa’s ports of entry and immigration officials are insisting on negative Covid-19 test results.
In a weekend interview, the National Covid-19 Secretariat (NACOSEC) Acting CEO Thabo Ntoi said they were aware that Lesotho vaccination cards were being rejected by South African immigration officials who were demanding negative Covid-19 test results instead.
Mr Ntoi said South Africa was rejecting the Lesotho cards because they had discovered that some people were presenting fraudulent cards. Hence, they wanted Lesotho to enhance the security features to ensure that its vaccination cards are less susceptible to cloning and manipulation by fraudsters, he said.
Among other things, the cards should come with bar codes that can be scanned to verify their authenticity, he said. Currently, the cards are handwritten and not machine readable.
“This issue of fraudulent Covid-19 vaccine cards from Lesotho has come to light.
“This after South African immigration officials recently caught some people who attempted to enter that country using fake cards. From that point onwards, South Africa started to question our vaccine cards and reject them. They said they want us to enhance the security features on our cards to make them scannable and readable by machines. They want the cards to be scannable to show the holder’s information.
“We are currently working to fix that challenge so that Basotho do not face any problems whenever they want to cross into South Africa. Until that happens, Basotho and other travellers from Lesotho should continue presenting negative Covid-19 test results,” Mr Ntoi said.
He said it was only South Africa which was currently refusing to accept vaccination cards from Lesotho. Other countries were accepting them, he said.
South Africa’s concerns around the authenticity of Lesotho’s vaccination cards are understandable given that there have been reports of unscrupulous health workers selling the cards to unvaccinated individuals for as little as M400 each.
Last year, an investigation by the Lesotho Times revealed that some of those purporting to be vaccinated were fraudulent Covid-19 certificate holders.
Mr Ntoi said that those purchasing certificates were putting people’s lives at risk.
“Covid-19 is a deadly virus and some of these people who paid for their certificates without actually being jabbed will be freely moving around and mixing with those who have been vaccinated.
“These selfish people are endangering other people’s lives.
“Not only that, but they are also endangering their own lives because if they get infected, they will not be able to fight off the worst symptoms of the disease without being vaccinated. They could fall critically ill or even die,” Mr Ntoi said at the time.