Maputo — Mozambican frontier police are complicit in a highly organised scheme whereby illegal Mozambican migrants are smuggled into South Africa, according to an investigation undertaken by the independent television channel STV.
Working under cover, STV reporters accompanied the migrants as they made their way to South Africa via the town of Namaacha, on the border between Mozambique and Eswatini.
The journey begins at the Junta bus terminal in Maputo, where Mozambicans queue up to catch minibuses that will take them to Namaacha. They do not have passports or any other documents normally demanded at a border post. Some of the migrants told STV they had been making these illegal crossings for 15 years.
Once the would-be migrants reach the Namaacha terminal, they find private transporters who will take them towards the South African border. They do not cross into Eswatini - instead they take a turning to the right which leads to Macuacua, a locality which borders on Mbuzine in South Africa. There is no official border post at Macuacua.
These private transporters know perfectly well that the business is illegal, and park their vehicles away from the official bus terminal. The trip from Namaacha to Macuacua used to cost between 30 and 50 meticais (less than 70 US cents, at current exchange rate), but increasing demand has pushed the price up to 100 meticais.
A man and his nephew who agreed to speak to STV said "we're using this route because we were told we can get through easily. We don't have passports, but we have money to pay the police".
The two men came from Chibuto, in Gaza province, and said they knew many other people in Gaza who had used the Namaacha-Macuacua route to enter South Africa.
As they approached Macuacua, the journalists were spotted by local residents who want to keep the business secret, and who informed the police. The police stopped the STV crew from reaching the Macuaca/Mbuzine border. "Brother, go home, or we will arrest you", said one of the police.
"That would be a violation of the Constitution", STV retorted.
"Then we'll violate it, but we'll arrest you", said the frontier police officer, identified as the head of the local police brigade. "We don't have any problems, we'll justify it later".
One of the drivers who takes the illegal migrants to Macuacua told STV "the scheme is very well designed. When you reach Macuacua, you don't need to speak with the police officers. They don't complicate matters for anyone".
But they charge, and in South African rands, not in Mozambican meticais. Crossing this illegal border costs 200 rands - and this transporter added that, once the migrant is across, he gives the driver 100 rands "by way of reward".
This driver thought the illegal migration business was "very profitable". A 15 seater minibus could make at least three trips a day from Namaacha to Macuacua. "Charging 100 meticais each for the journey and 100 rands on top of that - a lot of money is at stake", he said.