Sunday, October 17, 2021

Rogue police allegedly involved in lucrative cross-border smuggling trade

You most likely haven’t heard of a black market transit system but there is one on either side of the Botswana-Zimbabwe border and allegedly involves rogue police officers. Its name: “door-to-door delivery.”

The first commodity is human cargo in the form of illegal immigrants who want to come into Botswana from the Zimbabwean side. Instead of using public transport and crossing at the border, these people are transported over dirt roads by private cars through the bush from Plumtree to the Botswana-Zimbabwe border. For that very short distance of three kilometres, each passenger pays an equivalent of P150. The passengers quickly jump off at the border fence and sneak into Botswana where a waiting car whisks them into the interior, joins the A1 highway and drives towards Francistown. Some passengers end up proceeding southwards to Gaborone, paying as much as P600.

The second commodity is motor fuel from Botswana which follows the same route and ends up in Zimbabwe. If this fuel was to be conveyed through the border, traders would have to contend with the little annoyance of paying customs duty on entering Zimbabwe. While Zimbabwe doesn’t have fuel shortage as used to be the case in the past, motorists are unhappy with the quality of the one sold at filling stations. One complaint is that the fuel is expensive because it burns up faster and thus requires motorists to refuel more often. Being of better quality, the fuel smuggled from Botswana is in high demand and, in the judgement of the purveyors of this trade, the risk is well worth it.

The Botswana government is unwittingly providing business for the door-to-door delivery trade. Every once so often, police round up illegal immigrants and transport them to Francistown in a special truck where they are detained at the Francistown Centre for Illegal Immigrants. From there, the detainees are taken to the border and handed over to Zimbabwean officials. In the past, the Zimbabwean government would in turn, ferry these people to their respective areas of residence with buses but that no longer happens. What happens nowadays is that after routine and quite basic processing in Plumtree, the detainees are released. Soon thereafter, they rendezvous with door-to-door delivery operators and within hours are back in Botswana. From what sources tell Sunday Standard, some of these operators are off-duty police officers who, using their personal cars, getting to make a little extra cash on the side. 

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