BY MIRIAM MANGWAYA/PRAISEMORE SITHOLE
ZIMBABWE and South Africa are at war over border jumpers, with the neighbouring country’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi accusing local security forces of taking bribes to let undocumented immigrants into the country.
During a tour of the border on Sunday, South Africa border security authorities told Motsoaledi that Zimbabwean soldiers were abetting the border jumping after getting kick-backs, hindering their efforts to stop illegal immigrants from crossing over.
They also told Motsoaledi that they had communicated with the Zimbabwean army commanders about the issue of corrupt soldiers, but they “did nothing”.
“They (undocumented immigrants) pay those Zimbabwean soldiers there (bribes),” an army officer briefed Motsoaledi at the border, according to an eNCA report yesterday.
“Are you saying that the military command in Zimbabwe knows that their soldiers are taking bribes to allow illegal immigration, but they have done nothing?” Motsoaledi quizzed the security officer, who responded in the affirmative.
“These people come by car from Zimbabwe,” Motsoaledi said.
“The cars stop at the other side of the border. Whoever does not have documents will then move out of the car. The car will go because the driver would have all the documents. But when they pass through the gate, they then wait for that person who crosses the border illegally on the other side. That is why we have put several (roadblocks) after the border.”
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Since Friday, hundreds of Zimbabweans have been arrested and deported for attempting to illegally cross into South Africa.
In a statement, police said on Sunday (January 2), they arrested 781 people for illegally crossing the Beitbridge border post, as well as other related border crimes.
“The ZRP reports that on January 2, 2021, 781 people were arrested in operation ‘No to Cross Border Crimes’. The cumulative number of arrests on the operation now stands at 89 277 from December 27, 21 to January 02, 22,” police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said in a statement yesterday.
Zimbabwe’s Home Affairs minister Kazembe Kazembe told NewsDay that he was too busy to comment on the issue. His deputy Ruth Maboyi was not picking up calls.
Zimbabwe National Army spokesperson Colonel Alphios Makotore requested questions in writing.
He still had not responded to NewsDay’s questions by the time of going to print.
Motsoaledi also said the South African government had established a Border Management Authority to deal with illegal immigration which started working on November 2, 2021.
“What is now left is the deployment of border guards, which will happen early this year. Once we have border guards, we will be very sure that the border line is managed, but for now, it is being manned by the army. We have put a roadblock 10km from Mussina and this morning, we have already caught 179. Thirty kilometres out of Mussina, we have another roadblock there … There are several roadblocks to try and curb illegal entry,” Motsoaledi said.
International Cross-Border Traders’ Association president Dennis Juru said the South African government should deal with illegal entries into their country first instead of punishing Zimbabwe Exemption Permit (ZEP) holders in that country.
“The South African government is labouring itself by their deregulation of legal ZEP holders as this invites illegal entries. How can they discontinue ZEP, instead of dealing with illegal immigrants in their country first?” he asked.
“Police roadblocks have always been collecting bribes from illegal immigrants. It is only that now there are whistleblowers. After the discontinuation of ZEP, eventually the border officials will also get tired and let the illegal immigrants pass through due to excessive pressure.”
South Africa, which is the most economically developed country on the African continent, attracts thousands of migrants annually who seek jobs at farms and factories.
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