South Africa accuses Zimbabwe military of aiding illegal border crossings

BULAWAYO – South Africa’s military has accused the Zimbabwe Defence Forces of aiding illegal border crossings at Beitbridge.

Tensions have been rising over the porous border, with South Africa’s home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi making pointed criticism of Zimbabwe’s government over the migrant crisis.

Motsoaledi toured the Beitbridge border on Sunday and witnessed hundreds of illegal immigrants being detained at checkpoints on the N1 highway which he is calling “firewalls”.

The eNCA news channel on Monday carried a video of Motsoaledi in conversation with a South African National Defence Force (SANDF) officer who accused Zimbabwean soldiers of taking bribes to let illegal immigrants through.

Pointing to the Zimbabwean side, the officer says: “They pay those Zimbabwean soldiers over there.”

“So are you saying the military command in Zimbabwe know that their soldiers are taking bribes to let people in, and you have told them that, but nothing has happened?” asked Motsoaledi.

“Nothing,” the SANDF officer responded.

Zimbabwe maintains that it is doing its best to combat illegal migration. On Sunday alone, police spokesman Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said 600 people were arrested – but this included people accused of smuggling and other crimes.

“We’re carrying out the security operations concurrently with our counterparts in South Africa so that we don’t give the criminals breathing space,” Nyathi said.

“The security forces are out in full force along the borderline and we are descending hard on those breaking the law.”

The end of the Christmas and New Year’s holidays is usually followed by a wave of migrants flocking to South Africa to escape unemployment and a tanking economy at home. Many of the travellers are undocumented job seekers, part of the estimated two million Zimbabweans living in Africa’s most industrialised country.

In August last year, South Africa’s foreign affairs minister Naledi Pandor said the political and economic crisis in Zimbabwe was “impacting South Africa”, citing the migrants crossing into the country daily.

Then in October, Motsoaledi accused Zimbabwe of “killing Africa trade” after the country introduced new toll fees at Beitbridge, causing massive delays and a truck pile-up stretching 10 kilometers.

“It’s a mockery that a country can make unilateral measures without even warning us,” Motsoaledi blasted.

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