Game over for border jumpers as Zimbabwe and South Africa unite against smuggling


Smuggling activities between Zimbabwe and South Africa have become a persistent headache, compelling authorities from both nations to heighten their efforts in combating crime through joint operations.

The primary goods being smuggled into South Africa include cigarettes and explosives, whereas drugs, firearms, banned items, and stolen vehicles are finding their way into Zimbabwe. Recognizing the severity of the situation, the government has taken measures to bolster security along its border with South Africa, utilizing cutting-edge drone surveillance technology to curb this illicit trade.

In January, Finance, Economic Development, and Investment Promotion Minister Professor Mthuli Ncube launched a series of initiatives at the Beitbridge Border Post to combat smuggling. These measures included the deployment of drones, electronic cargo tracking systems (ECTS), fast cargo scanners, and a canine unit. According to Minister Ncube, these resources will enable authorities to enhance surveillance in hotspot areas and minimize revenue losses that are crucial for fulfilling government obligations.

The Minister further announced plans to expand the use of drones, ECTS, and fast scanners to other entry and exit points, including Forbes and Chirundu.

Colonel Malasela Ledwaba, spokesperson for the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Limpopo, revealed that “Operation Vala Umgodi” was currently underway to combat crime at the border and throughout the entire province.

Colonel Ledwaba stated in a recent press release, “A successful operation conducted by the Border Police team at Musina in the Vhembe District near the Beitbridge Port of Entry on Sunday, March 3rd, 2024, has resulted in the seizure of counterfeit goods and the recovery of an inflatable boat believed to be used for illegal crossings of the Limpopo River between Zimbabwe and South Africa.”

He further detailed the operation’s success, explaining that the SAPS Border Police intercepted a smuggling attempt at OR Tambo International Airport, confiscating an inflatable boat, 25 liters of diesel, counterfeit cigarettes, and illicit liquor being transported between the two countries.

Despite some suspects managing to evade arrest by fleeing on foot and crossing the Limpopo River, the operation successfully dismantled home-made wooden bridges that were used for illegal crossings.

In a separate incident, the Vhembe District Proactive Police arrested nine Zimbabwean men for contravening immigration laws during a separate operation under “Vala Umgodi.” These individuals were apprehended less than 10 kilometers from the Beitbridge Border Post.

Colonel Ledwaba confirmed that the Department of Home Affairs Immigration Office had been engaged to facilitate the immediate deportation of the illegal immigrants.

The collaborative efforts between Zimbabwe and South Africa, marked by the deployment of advanced surveillance technologies and joint operations, signify a firm commitment to combatting smuggling and maintaining the integrity of their shared border. By tightening the screws on criminal activities, authorities aim to reduce revenue losses and safeguard their respective nations from the adverse effects of illicit trade.

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