Zim border: Sexual assault up
Musina - Since the beginning of this year, 14 795 illegal immigrants have crossed into South Africa from Zimbabwe over the Limpopo river at Beitbridge, the SA Army said on Tuesday.
"This borderline needs a comprehensive borderline plan," SA Army Colonel Johan Herbst said during a media visit to the border town.
All stakeholders in government departments needed to be on board.
Herbst said there had been arrests every day since the army was re-deployed to the area earlier this year to help the police combat illegal immigration.
The home affairs department and its one-year permits for illegal immigrants was repeatedly identified as a hindrance to efforts to stop foreigners crossing the game-filled bush and crocodile and hippopotamus-infested river to get to South Africa.
Another obstacle was the out-of-use electric fence on the border and constant sabotage of the barbed-wire fences.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was trying to find a contractor to take over the operation and improvement of the fences.
Herbst said illegal crossings formed only part of the tactical hurdles the army faced: there was also smuggling of animal and plant products.
He said bulk supplies of contraband cigarettes could be smuggled over the border for between R5 000 and R10 000.
Last month, perlemoen with a street value of R4m was seized in Musina after being offered to a soldier for about R200 000.
"It’s easy to bribe your way through, even our own soldiers can be bribed," he said.
There were also people-peddlers known as the "Gomma-Gommas", who received a fee to get people safely over the border.
"It’s a system handed down from father to son," said Herbst.
This was often linked to violent crimes such as rape and murder if the fee was not paid or the authorities were tipped off.
Stray and smuggled animals were also a concern, as contagious diseases such as anthrax and foot-and-mouth disease were prevalent in the area. Despite the difficulties, Herbst was optimistic that strides were being made.
On the road to the Musina army base, about 25km from the border post, soldiers could be seen patrolling the fences and returning with immigrants arrested earlier in the day.
In the back of one truck were a woman and her children. They joined 135 people arrested on Monday. On Sunday, 34 of the people caught were children.
Read more on: southern africa zimbabwe sandf