Zimbabwe: Smugglers Bounce Back With New Routes

Beitbridge Bureau

Scores of smugglers who were lying low in the last four months following the deployment of more security personnel along the Limpopo River, have resumed their illegal operations and are using new routes to circumvent border control checks.

Zimbabwe and South Africa beefed up security and increased patrols along the border in January this year to curb the smuggling of goods and the spread of Covid-19.

The two countries closed the border to non-essential human traffic while allowing trucks to move cargo.

Since then, smugglers have created new illegal crossing points and have even opened taxi ranks at the Old Beitbridge Border Post near Pagomo Lodge (Zimbabwe) and Gateway trucks stop (South Africa).

Although they are being rounded up by police, some still find their way through by bribing officials on both sides of the border. Some smugglers have become more daring and operate 500 metres east of the main border post and under the Old Limpopo Bridge.

When The Herald news crew visited the Old Border Post yesterday, there was a hive of activity with people coming into the country using several footpaths and carrying all sorts of goods including fuel, groceries, electrical gadgets and blankets.

Those who spoke on condition of anonymity said they were playing cat and mouse with the security agencies.

Others said they were negotiating their way after paying 'small access fees' ranging from R20 to R100 depending on the goods being transported.

After getting into Zimbabwe, the smugglers and migrants hire taxis for anything between R50 and R60 to spots on roads leading to Bulawayo and Harare where they hitchhike to the two cities.

"It's hectic my brother, at times we get rounded up and at times we manage to pass through without being detected. We keep shifting entry points," said a smuggler known as Ma Zalawi.

Police officer commanding Beitbridge district Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo could not be reached to comment on the latest development.

However, security officials from Zimbabwe and South Africa have been rounding up scores of people along the river border during joint patrols. Between February and March, the national security taskforce intercepted a total of 55 intercity buses carrying goods smuggled into the country through various points along the Limpopo River.

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