Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
Zimbabwe and South Africa have tightened security along the Limpopo border to thwart illegal activities, especially smuggling and the irregular movement of people between the two countries, with over 600 being arrested last Sunday alone.
Between December 10 and December 31 last year, 13 387 people were arrested for border jumping and smuggling-related cases.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said the security officials were not relenting on their quest to uphold the law at the border.
“We have deployed enough manpower to deal with criminal elements along the border.
“On Sunday alone we arrested 632 people under the ongoing operation ‘No to Cross-border Crimes-Fhasi Ngamilandu Yamukanuni Yamashango — Mhosva Pamiganhu Ngadzipere — Amacala Kawaphele Emingceleni Yelizwe’.
“Among these were smugglers, illegal vendors, Covid-19 protocols violators, and irregular migrants,” he said.
Asst Comm Nyathi said the police were conducting operations concurrently with their South African counterparts.
Most of those being arrested were attempting to use the few illegal crossing points remaining since the Limpopo River water levels have started rising.
Police also warned people against using informal crossing points since they risked prosecution, being attacked by thugs or wild animals, and drowning in the Limpopo River.
“We are carrying out the security operations concurrently with our counterparts in South Africa so that we don’t give the criminals breathing space.
“The security forces are out in full force along the borderline and we are descending hard on those breaking the law,” said Asst Comm Nyathi.
He said the number of people using the border has been increasing in the past week with many migrants trying to beat the very tight security checks as the festive season winds up.
The police, said Asst Comm Nyathi, would not take lightly to those people smuggling goods, skipping the border, and smuggling the Covid-19 virus across borders.
It is understood that some immigrants are using over 200 illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River to enter or leave and smuggle goods into the country.
The sole legal crossing point is at Beitbridge.
The most common crossing points are Mai Maria, Dite, Panda Mine, River Ranch, Dulivhadzimu Gorge, Spillway and Tshivhara.
Bulky smuggled goods include electrical gadgets, groceries, and other prohibited goods.
Zimbabwe beefed up security along its border with South Africa in January last year after it was discovered that general crime and smuggling was rife and the country was losing millions of revenue in terms of import duty.
The security patrols are being conducted by helicopters, drones, the police and army horse-mounted units, and the canine sections.
Over 80 000 people were arrested for various offences between January and December last year under the same operation.
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