BY REX MPHISA
THE National Joint Operations Command (JOC) met in Beitbridge yesterday and committed to beefing up borderline security to control rampant smuggling of goods and irregular migration which peaks during the festive season.
The meeting was attended by JOC members, who included State Security minister Owen Ncube, Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe, Commander of Defence Forces Phillip Valerio Sibanda, Commissioner General of Police Godwin Matanga and Air Chief Marshal Elson Moyo.
Also in attendance were several directors from the Central Intelligence Organisation and dozens of senior civil servants who also came face to face with a massive traffic gridlock that has paralysed Africa’s busiest inland port of entry.
Kazembe promised to immediately engage his South African counterpart Aaron Motsoaledi over the traffic jam.
“I will call him before we leave Beitbridge. We met recently and I will take images of this and forward to him,” he said.
Truck drivers are spending up to three days before crossing into South Africa because of disorderly COVID-19 screening by South Africa lumping travellers and truckers in one queue.
Speaking to journalists soon after their briefing at a hotel in the border town, Ncube said their visit to Beitbridge was to appreciate the situation and find solutions.
“We want to increase security between us and South Africa. We have to stop smuggling of petrol (fuels), electrical gadgets, explosives and cigarettes among other things,” Ncube said ahead of their visit to River Ranch illegal crossing point..
“We want to seal all the porous points and routes between our two countries. We are going to improve security.”
Zimbabwe is losing billions of potential revenue in duties to smuggling enabled ironically by security personnel deployed along the country’s borders.
This year, after the COVID-19 lockdown, Customs and Excuse officials at Beitbridge intercepted smuggled goods worth over a billion dollars which had been smuggled across the river.
At the official crossing point large volumes of fuel have been intercepted after being smuggled into the country.
At the illegal crossing points the ministers found nothing after information of their arrival leaked.
JOC members held several small on site meetings and saw signs of activity at the points which looked like picnic sites with beer bottles, empty condom papers, signs of small fires all over showing a hive of activity.
During their meetings, closed to the press, some officials were heard complaining that the visits were too much and unproductive.
“We came here this year, next year and yet the problem continues. Let’s arrest those who fail to arrest the problem we have. Ngatisungane (let’s arrest each other),” one official said.
“We cannot continue giving lip service.”
Zimbabwe, which has the potential to become of the richest African nations, is widely believed to be let down by corruption cascading from top to bottom.
Civil servants were also believed to be half-hearted in their work owing to poor remuneration.
The JOC has been travelling around the country and arrived in Beitbridge after a tour of Manicaland which took them to Chiadzwa diamond fields.
Some Zimbabwean economists have, however, said Zimbabwe was wrongly focusing on imports yet losing billions to under-declaration of exports.
Recently, a Zimbabwean former football administrator Henrietta Rushwaya attempted smuggling gold worth US$333 000 outside the country although she says it was in the wrong bag.