The minister said this in response to opposition criticism that Pretoria’s closure of the borders victimised fellow African neighbours instead of “white people who brought the disease into the country.”
Economic Freedom Fighter (EFF) leader Julius Malema said in a viral social media video last week that by shutting down the land borders and leaving the air corridors open, the government only served to cater to “whites” who brought the disease into South Africa from Italy in March 2020 – and they were never quarantined despite demands to do so.
The EFF leader’s apparent reference to “whites” importing the disease into the country recalls the arrival of a white South African who was first diagnosed with the Covid-19 on his return home from northern Italy – Europe’s epicentre of the disease at the time – where he had gone for a holiday.
The land border closures were described by Malema as an effort by government in “pleasing whiteness” when airports were left untouched in the lockdown.
Motsoaledi, however, said his government acted on information given when the decision to shut the land borders was carried out and that, contrary to some quarters’ beliefs, the closures did not impact on economic activities.
"Right from the beginning of the pandemic, even at lockdown Level Five when we closed borders, we never closed the economy," the minister said, adding that the major land border posts were still open for essential goods like cargo and fuel, and travel services.
South Africa’s death toll due to coronavirus has surpassed the 37,000 mark after 254 people passed away on Sunday.
According to the latest data, 72 deaths were recorded in the Western Cape Province, 59 in Gauteng Province, 40 in KwaZulu-Natal Province, 26 in the North West Province, 22 in the Eastern Cape Province, 16 in Mpumalanga Province, 13 in Free State Province and six in the Northern Cape Province.
This brings the toll to 37,105 deaths from a cumulative 1,337,926 infections since the outbreak of the disease in March 2020 in the country.