177 immigration officials convicted of corruption

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BY VENERANDA LANGA

CORRUPTION at the country’s border posts is said to be rampant with statistics presented to Parliament by the Immigration Department showing that 177 officers were convicted of graft last year.

This was revealed in a report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence on the status of the country’s border posts which was presented on Thursday in the National Assembly.

The report also revealed that the country’s border posts were so porous that 16 187 people were arrested from January to June 2019 for illegal crossing.

“The statistics presented to the committee show that out of a total of 186 immigration officials implicated for corruption, 177 were convicted and only nine were acquitted,” read the report.

“Statistics submitted to the committee showed that a total of 16 187 have been arrested for illegal crossing from January to June 2019, and this is a significant number as it can be quantified that on average 1 350 people are being arrested on monthly basis.”

When the committee visited different border posts, they said they found that for stretches of up to 255km, border policing was being done in areas covering less than 50km thus giving easy access for illegal crossing.

“It was submitted to the committee that the existing infrastructure at all border posts was outdated and inefficient. At Forbes Border Post, the infrastructure was very minimal resulting in traffic congestion compounded by the fact that there was no room for extension. It was reported at both border posts that there is limited office space as well as furniture,” the report read.

At Beitbridge Border Post, Parliament heard that the police dealt with high volumes of accused persons on a daily basis, but had no vehicles to ferry them to the police station.

At Forbes Border Post, the committee was told that most schools dotted along the border enrol pupils from Mozambique and they cross the border twice a day. The problem is compounded by the fact that the international boundaries were marked separating families as well as fields as was the case at Forbes Border Post, Mozambicans have fields in Zimbabwe.

“Further, it was presented to the Committee that Beacon Hill Primary School in Chipinge has 33 pupils from Mozambique and South Down has 527 in the Garaba area. Additionally, the existence of intermarriages compels locals to cross-border line,” the report said.

At Forbes Border Post, the committee said it was informed about the no man’s land between Zimbabwe and Mozambique where police were said to find it difficult to arrest culprits since smugglers usually run over to the area.

On smuggling, the committee found that the Zimbabwe Republic Police relied on physical searching which was not sufficient to detect smuggled items.

“The police did not have hand luggage scanners to detect smuggling of goods concealed in hand luggage or in any part of the body. In this regard, goods such as drugs and gold have a tendency of being smuggled in that fashion.”

MPs found that there was no equipment such as drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance and scanners to detect smuggling at Beitbridge and Forbes Border Posts were not functional.

“The committee learnt that the Department of Immigration did not have vehicles for border patrol operations and currently they are relying on private hire to chase criminals. At Beitbridge Border Post, the committee was informed that currently nine motorbikes were being used to patrol the whole stretch for anti-smuggling along the Limpopo River from Chikwarakwara on the east up to Shashe River.”