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ELEVEN Zimbabweans were killed and seven others escaped with severe injuries after a South Africa-bound minibus hit a donkey and then rammed into a tree, Botswana police said yesterday.

Assistant Commissioner Christopher Mbulawa, Public Relations Officer for Botswana Police Service said the accident occurred along the Palapye-Martins Drift Road in the neighbouring country.

He said 11 Zimbabweans – five men, five women and a child- were killed in the horror crash.

Of the survivors, two were reported to be in a critical condition.

Investigators say only the driver, who is among the dead, had a passport – suggesting all his 17 passengers were illegal immigrants.

Ass Comm Mbulawa said the injured were admitted at Palapye Primary Hospital.

He, however, could not release the names of the dead as their next of kin were yet to be informed.

Botswana's highways – although well-maintained – are notorious for livestock encroachment, usually donkeys.

Sources yesterday said the minibus had come from Tsholotsho, and the driver was an umalayitsha, who had been engaged to transport the illegals into South Africa following the end of the festive season.

Omalayitsha are illegal facilitators of border jumping.

Many Zimbabweans returning to South Africa after the holiday period often use the longer but quicker route through Botswana to avoid queues at Beitbridge. Those without passports pay huge sums to enter neighbouring countries illegally. Omalayitshas pay off immigration officers and the police for safe passage.

Omalayitsha also double as “road nannies” as parents working in neighbouring countries approach them to help facilitate the smuggling of their children.

Some guardians and parents resort to this strategy even though their children have passports in order to avoid the cumbersome process of acquiring an affidavit for minors as required by law.

Over the years, omalayitsha have recorded brisk business ferrying money, goods and people. Departing from Bulawayo, they are paid between R1,500 and R4,000 per person during peak periods. Documented Zimbabweans pay R400 for the same trip, on the other hand.

Although widely used, this illegal service has often proved risky, with the threat of imprisonment if intercepted.





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