BY MOSES MATENGA
ZIMBABWE’s porous borders are posing a serious security risk as they expose the country to a litany of illegal activities, including smuggling and criminal syndicates roaming undetected, a damning report says.
According to the report by the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Defence and Security Services chaired by Chiredzi South Member of Parliament Callisto Gwanetsa (Zanu PF), state security agents manning the country’s expansive border lines are corruptly facilitating illegal entry of locals and foreigners and this was rampant.
The report was presented to Parliament last Thursday after the committee’s visit to the country’s borders including Beitbridge, Sango, Plumtree, Chirundu and Nyamapanda posts, which it said were in a deplorable state.
“The country’s borders were very porous as evidenced by the proliferation of illegal exit and entry points,” the report says.
“The rise in illegal border crossing cases impacted negatively on the reputation of the Immigration Department in as much as it affected the entire nation in terms of security and loss of revenue.”
Government, the report says, does not have adequate off-road terrain patrol vehicles and use of modern surveillance tools to secure the entirety of the country’s border lines.
“At Sango Border Post — the committee was told that the near 200 km straight line was punctuated by rattled trucks weaving in and out of the country, testimony of the presence of vehicular and human traffic entering and leaving the country illegally,” the report says.
“The main points that were said to be costly were mostly used for smuggling goods in and out and included Crooks Corner, Machichi, Dumela, Malipathi and Dingi among others.
“This posed potential security risk to the country and at the same time undermining revenue collection efforts, security of great importance, revenue going uncollected and all those are of great concern to a state of the nation.
“There is also lack of capacity in using modern technology such as drones, surveillance cameras, and biometric cameras at clearance points, helicopters for effective operations, patrols and security surveillance at border posts, hence exposing the country to criminal elements.”
It also emerged that the borders’ computer software was in the hands of a private player, a situation that puts the country’s security in jeopardy.
The committee said there was concern over border infrastructure including roads, commercial officers, bays, bridge development and housing.
The committee also said there was a danger people from countries like Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Great Lakes region were finding their way into the country taking advantage of the porous border systems.
“The committee was further informed that there were no off-road terrain vehicles at Kariba border post to conduct patrols on the lower Zambezi Valley, which was said to be a hive of illegal activities when you look in terms of those people coming from Zambia, DRC, Rwanda, Great Lakes and everywhere,” the report added.
“So, it is really unpleasing.
“This situation was deemed unsustainable in light of the rampant illegal activities taking place along the border line.
“Unlike on the Zambian side, the committe observed that there was no boat patrol on Lake Kariba, which was quite often used by border jumpers. The entire Kariba, no boats on patrol by the immigration officers, so, the laxity was unprecedented,” the report said.
“On ICT system challenges — at Nyamapanda and Chirundu border posts, the committee was informed by the Immigration officers that the computer system experienced frequent downtimes. “The committee received similar reports at Beitbridge border post where the Afrosoft-backed system was said to have crashed in December 2019 putting the Immigration department and the whole nation at risk as all entries and immigrant management had to be done manually.
“Given the high volumes of movement at the ports, officials were not able to collectively identify criminals and some prohibited immigrants using the manual system.
“Once again, the porosity of the system and criminology, all issues were pertaining to use once again of Afrosoft which was not controlled in the country. The committee noted that the black book was not computerised and as a result prohibited immigrants were not easy to identify. It was a willy-nilly situation.”
“At Beitbridge border post, the committee learnt from the immigration officers that the 225 kilometres, if you want to say from Crook’s Corner to Beitbridge, you pass once again into Matabeleland South — the frontier had too many breach points, forward basis and communities along the frontier line were said to be fuelling cross-border illicit activities.”
There were no physical barriers in the Nyamapanda area and was highly porous with a number of illegal crossing points along the border line, thus creating operational challenges.
“No wonder why at one time we had people from Ethiopia caught in Gwanda on foot because of the porousness of the border line.
“Our security, as it were, remains bleak,” the report presented by Gwanetsa says.
“Maintenance of morale is one of the principles in the campaign. Therefore, if morale among the security people is low, we are playing with a very important scenario in terms of security provision.”