DESPERATE Zimbabweans attempting to illegally sneak into South Africa for greener pastures face a formidable challenge after the neighbouring country started deploying military personnel and helicopters to maintain surveillance on the Limpopo River.
An estimated three million Zimbabweans are said to be domiciled in South Africa, most of them illegally, fleeing economic hardships back home.
Most of the Zimbabweans, who had come home for the festive season, are finding their way back to South Africa through illegal entry points.
The number of those trying to illegally cross has increased following the announcement by Vice-President and Health minister Constantino that the country will be on lockdown starting tomorrow.
This has triggered pressure at the Beitbridge Border Post.
South Africa has reported it was arresting over 500 locals every day for trying to access South Africa via illegal entry points to beat the closure of the borders for the lockdown.
Chiwenga on Saturday announced strict lockdown regulations and some locals who ply their trade in South Africa are trying to find their way back using undesignated points.
South Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi confirmed after his visit to the Beitbridge Border Post that over 500 Zimbabweans were being arrested everyday attempting to jump the border into South African.
Media reports have also indicated that the South African National Defence Forces will be deploying helicopters while the South African Police Services will have boats in the Limpopo River to thwart attempts by desperate Zimbabweans.
“You can’t just come with your fraudulent documents,” Motsoaledi said.
“The person who wants to enter your country with a fraudulent document is undermining your sovereignty, is undermining the order in your country, and is undermining all the laws.”
He said the South African government had implemented strict measures to stop people from entering the country illegally.
Motsoaledi came face-to-face with hundreds of Zimbabweans trying to illegally enter South Africa, where many of them became economic refugees fleeing the biting economic crisis.
Millions of Zimbabweans flocked to South Africa where they are doing menial jobs, while others who are in professional positions in the corporate world have come under attack from locals who accuse them of snatching their jobs.
It also emerged that Zimbabweans trying to enter South Africa were producing fake COVID-19 certificates.
South Africa has made her position on Zimbabwe clear, with Pretoria urging Harare to sort the economic crisis that has seen millions of economic refugees “burdening the neighbouring country”.
The South Africa ruling African National Congress (ANC) party has said on several occasions that Zimbabwe was in a crisis that has stripped locals based in the neighbouring country of their dignity.
A delegation led by ANC secretary-general Acie Magashule was dispatched to Harare last year, but went back empty-handed after their counterpart, Zanu PF, insisted there was no crisis in Zimbabwe.
Zimbabweans have been taking advantage of the porous borders and the illegal points to cross into South Africa with Defence minister Oppah Muchinguri admitting in Parliament that the military had no capacity to deal with the crisis.
Muchinguri also said corruption was rife on the border as hungry Zimbabwean soldiers were opting for bribes to buy food and let illegal travellers cross over because they were poorly paid.
Source – newsday