The Sunday News
Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
A SENIOR official at a foreign embassy in Harare has been fingered in a human smuggling syndicate that is suspected to involve immigration officers at the country’s airports and border posts.
It is understood that the racket uses Zimbabwe as a transit point en route to South Africa. According to security authorities, the official allegedly facilitates the processing of visas of his countrymen to Zimbabwe.
Upon arrival, the immigrants are then smuggled into South Africa via illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River or Beitbridge Border Post.
Most of these are reportedly failing to meet visa requirements in the neighbouring country.
“So far we had an encounter with the official on 2 November after intercepting four foreign nationals who were being smuggled to South Africa by two men from Beitbridge in a Toyota Wish. The officials had paid one of the guys Collen Ndou R17 000 to facilitate a smooth movement of his people. However, Ndou is still at large.
“Our initial investigations reveal that the official and Ndou had a handover takeover of the immigrants at Naude, some 10 kilometres along the Beitbridge-Bulawayo Road. This official drove the people, among them one minor, two women and one man in his vehicle a Subaru Forester,” said a Ferret official.
The Ferret is made up of various security authorities manning the country’s ports of entries. Indications are that immigrants; Waqas Haider Shah, Danven Faiza, Fatima Khurama and an infant who cannot be named arrived in the country on 26 October and stayed at Belvedere until their transportation to Beitbridge.
The source said the four were intercepted as they were about to leave the border on 2 November after failing to produce valid travel documents at a security check point.
“The man from the embassy later came with the passports trying to influence a free passage of the undocumented immigrants.
He later produced passports for three people except for one belonging to Waqas Haider Shah, which is alleged to have been left with an immigration officer at the airport to be stamped as if he left the country,” said the official.
Further allegations are that the embassy official tried to facilitate the transportation of the four in his vehicle to Harare after they had been fined $300 for violating section 13 (1) of the Immigration Act (Failure to report to an immigration officer). When contacted for comment yesterday, the official professed ignorance of the issue.
The Assistant Immigration officer in charge of Beitbridge, Mr Nqobile Ncube said they were in the process of deporting the four immigrants to their home country.
“We are upping the ante on human smuggling and trafficking and in conjunction with all related State Agencies, we will leave no stone unturned to bring the network operators to book.
“We would like to warn persons living along the border communities not to be part of these networks by working as transporters, as the Trafficking in Persons Act has stiff penalties and as far as forfeiture of vehicles and proceeds from such crimes,” he said.
According to security sources, the river is the main barrier for their trek to South Africa, hence they are intercepted at the border or roads leading to several illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.