Thupeyo Muleya-Beitbridge Bureau
Zimbabwe and South Africa border officials on Friday conducted a joint operation to clean up the border area of smugglers and irregular migrants.
Scores of people were arrested going either side of the border via the spillway, the New Limpopo and the Alfred Beit Bridge.
According to border officials, the move was meant to curtail criminal activities, among them border jumping, touting, use of fake immigration stamps and fake travel documents that were synonymous with a surge in human traffic.
Acting Head of Immigration Services at Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Mr Trustworthy Manatsir said the operation had members drawn from security clusters from Zimbabwe and South Africa.
“This was a very successful operation and we have arrested a number of people for offences related to illegal migration and the illegal movement of goods,” he said.
“However, we will release figures at a later stage since we are still processing the migrants”.
Mr Manatsire said the joint operation was continuous and urged those wishing to embark on cross-border travel to always use formal crossing points and be in possession of the requisite documents.
He said travellers should in addition to having their own valid passports, have been vaccinated against Covid-19 and also carry a Covid-19 clearance certificate (PCR tested).
On the Zimbabwean border, officials were targeting those travellers using the New Freight Terminal, border parameters, north and south entry gates and the light vehicles section, commonly referred to as the Malume Zone.
“Despite the recent re-opening of the land borders, we have realised that more and more people are still engaging in irregular migration,” said Mr Manatsire.
“So, pursuant to that realisation, we engaged our local stakeholders and the South African counterparts to come up with a joint operation that will deal with that problem.
“You will note that these people use the border flanks to go into either country, but they end up on the two bridges linking the two countries hence we have decided to send a clear message that we don’t want to entertain irregular migration.”
He said they were also conducting border perimeter patrols to discourage undesirable, self-imposed agents operating at the New Freight Terminal, hawkers, and the movement of undocumented persons through the protected area.
All the arrested, he said, were handed over to police for further management.
“In fact, we have recalibrated our compliance operations to deal with the foreseeable challenges upon the opening of the border to general travel,” he said.
“We are also fighting to curb and eliminate irregular migration as well as to well to minimise the issue of genuine travellers falling prey to touts who misdirect and rob them of their hard-earned cash.”
Before the Covid-19 pandemic, a total of 15 000 travellers used Beitbridge Border Post daily but the number dropped to 2 000 in 2020.