Bus crews whose operators had been banned from crossing the border say they can always pay the officials for passage adding, “nothing is impossible in Zimbabwe” if one has enough money for bribes.
These remarks come as illegal travel between Zimbabwe and South Africa has persisted, despite joint efforts to thwart the practice by both countries.
The two governments recently launched a joint operation to address criminal activities such as border jumping, touting, use of fake immigration stamps, fake travel documents and human and goods smuggling.
Criminal border-crossing reached a peak at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic during which both the Zimbabwean and South African governments announced lockdowns that severely restricted travel.
An investigation conducted by NewZimbabwe.com, in conjunction with Information for Development Trust early this year suggested that officials, among them immigration, police and military officers, assisted illegal travellers to cross through the Beitbridge Border post from Zimbabwe to South Africa and back.
The bus operators also said the operations by security officials will not stop human smuggling between the neighbouring countries. One conductor told NewZimbabwe.com:
As long as you have enough money to bribe officers, nothing is impossible in Zimbabwe. We have been doing this for years and nothing will change. It will remain this way.
The chief immigration director, Respect Gono, professed ignorance about the illegal bus operations and promised that her department would investigate the unauthorised travel.
Gono later told NewZimbabwe.com in our follow-up investigation, that 206 illegal immigrants had been deported back to their countries of origin between March and May alone.
She added that buses, trucks, and commuter omnibuses that were used in committing the offences had been intercepted and the operators prosecuted but did not give further details about the offenders.