Stern warning for illegal border crossers

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Polokwane - The police in South Africa and Zimbabwe will join forces this festive season to prevent criminal activity along the Limpopo River, which marks the border between the two countries.

Musina police spokesperson, Captain Sydney Ringane, said a meeting was held on Monday to plan the two forces' joint anti-crime operations.

"During the festive season, you find that there is a high number of Zimbabwean people who cross the border to buy groceries and other goods in South Africa to take back home.

"Criminals lure unsuspecting victims by telling them they should not cross at the Beitbridge border post because we'll arrest them. They say they will help Zimbabweans to cross into South Africa, but instead rob them of their money," said Ringane, adding that women were often raped by these criminals as well.

Ringane said Zimbabweans working in South Africa were also targeted as they went home for Christmas.

"In these cases, Zimbabweans fall prey to criminals who say they can help them cross the border with their luggage illegally so that they can avoid paying duty fees at the border post."

Ringane said the police were also gearing up for a high number of undocumented or illegal Zimbabweans, who will be going to Zimbabwe in fear of being deported after 31 December, when their special dispensation ends.

Undocumented Zimbabweans living in South Africa have until 31 December to apply to the Home Affairs Department to have their stay in the country registered.

The department started the process of regularising Zimbabweans' stay in South Africa on 20 September. Thousands of applications for work, business and study permits have been made. Hundreds others have been granted amnesty for turning in fraudulent documentation which they had used to stay in the country.

"But I believe there are enough police officers to deal with the higher volume, and we also have members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) to assist," he said.

"From the police's side, we have more than 200 officers who are patrolling the border, and if we add the more than 200 SANDF members who are there as well, we have enough people to do the job. We will also be assisted by police officers from Zimbabwe, who will be monitoring the situation from the other side of the river."

Ringane added that the police were doing awareness campaigns through the local radio station, Musina Community Radio, as well as farm visits to warn people about the dangers of using illegal means of crossing the border.

"We have also asked our colleagues in Zimbabwe to do the same on that side so that we can educate people," said Ringane.