Touts, vendors take over Alfred Beitbridge

Source: Touts, vendors take over Alfred Beitbridge – Sunday News Dec 25, 2016

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
A GROUP of touts and illegal vendors have taken over the old Alfred Beitbridge (Old Limpopo Bridge) where they are roaming freely under the nose of security agents.

The Government declared the border post a security zone in 2004, where such criminal activities are outlawed.

The bridge is manned by the police and members of the Zimbabwe National Army.

Touts soliciting for smugglers or illegal immigrants and vendors selling food items and water have become a common feature on the bridge.

The Alfred Beitbridge Bridge is used mainly by pedestrians while the New Limpopo Bridge is reserved for motor vehicle traffic only.

Criminals including touts, vendors and bogus clearing agents were driven out of the border in the last three years by security agents as the Government tightened screws on wheeler dealers.

Some of the vendors bring their wares on bicycles through the same route (behind the duty free shop and the old border road).

These have, however, found a new home on the old bridge due to the laxity of security at the border.

The wheeler dealers, who enter the border through illegal points behind the defunct duty free shop, are seen on daily basis selling their wares to many travellers.

However, it remains a cat and mouse game for the criminals inside the main border area where either private security guards or immigration officers intercept them.

Matabeleland South police spokesperson Inspector Philisani Ndebele said they had deployed adequately to ensure that they curb the vice around the border.

“The border post is a protected area and we are not tolerating any criminal vices. Let those who want to take chances be warned that the long arm of the law will catch up with them,” he said.

Insp Ndebele called on members of the public to always follow legal procedures at the border post instead of hiring the touts and conmen for services.

“They must always bring to the police’s attention all issues of harassment by these criminals for further action. We are out in full force and we have intensified patrols to maintain law and order at the port of entry,” said Insp Ndebele.

In most cases, when the touts are arrested they pay admission of guilt fines of $20 or jailed for six months for contravening a section of the Protected Places and Areas Act.

The Government this year availed $600 000 to upgrade security facilities at the port of entry with a view of stamping out corruption and leakages in or out of the country.

Cabinet has since set up an inter-ministerial team led by Home Affairs Minister, Dr Ignatius Chombo to come up with solutions to the situation at the border.

During a recent visit to Beitbridge, Dr Chombo said the country was losing a lot of potential revenue through underhand activities at the ports of entries.