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Committee Report on the State of Border Posts in Zimbabwe

REPORT OF THE PORTFOLIO COMMITTEE ON DEFENCE, HOME AFFAIRS AND SECURITY SERVICES ON THE STATUS OF BORDER POSTS IN ZIMBABWE

HON. MAYIHLOME: I move the motion standing in my name that this House takes note of the Report of the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services on the status of border posts in Zimbabwe.

Thank you Mr. Speaker Sir. There was a general outcry regarding the smuggling of goods and precious minerals, human trafficking, delays in processing of travelling documents, rampant corruption and illegal exit and entry into the country at various border posts. This has resulted in Government losing taxes and duties accordingly, hence impacting negatively to economic development. Various stakeholders including civil societies and the media testified that there was need for the Government to act immediately and address these trepidations. Cognisant of the fundamental importance of water tight border post to the country’s development agenda, the Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services resolved to conduct an inquiry on the status of border posts in Zimbabwe.

2.0 OBJECTIVES.

In its inquiry, the Committee was guided by the following objectives;

i. To familiarise members with the operations of the Immigration Department and the Zimbabwe Republic Police;

ii. To appreciate the challenges being faced by the Immigration Department and Zimbabwe Republic Police;

iii. To assess strategies being implemented by the security sector in curbing smuggling and human tracking; and

iv. To offer policy recommendations for improvements.

3.0 METHODOLOGY.

The Committee employed the following methods in gathering the information;

1. The Committee conducted oral evidence session, with the Permanent Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage Mr M. Matshiya accompanied by Deputy Commissioner General Mr L. Ncube and Chief Director of Immigration, Ms R. Gono. The objectives of the meeting were to get an explanation of the challenges being faced by the Department of Immigration and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in executing their duties at ports of entry or exit and outlining strategies and measures being implemented to overcome these challenges.

2. The Committee also conducted familiarisation tour of Beitbridge and Forbes Border Posts, to appreciate how the Immigration Department and the Zimbabwe Republic Police in conjunction with Zimbabwe Revenue Authority handle the movement of goods and persons at border posts.

4.0COMMITTEE FINDINGS.

4.1 Ministry of Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage:

4.1.1 In his presentation, the Permanent Secretary, Mr. M. Matshiya submitted that the operations of the Immigration Department includes but are not limited to;

          i. Administering the Immigration Act;

       ii. Facilitating Entry and Exit of travellers ;

    iii. Handling permit applications; and

             iv. Compliance and Enforcement activities including handling of repatriations, deportations, arrests and refusal of entry.

It was submitted that at major busy border posts like Beitbridge and Forbes, the department handles an average of 12 000 travellers a day and up to 28 000 a day during peak periods such as festive season.

4.2With reference to the Zimbabwe Republic Police, the Secretary made reference to section 219 of the Constitution which provides for the responsibility of Police Service as follows:

       i. Detecting, investigating and preventing crime.

    ii. Preventing the internal security of Zimbabwe.

4.3 In addition, it was submitted to the Committee that Zimbabwe Republic Police discharges its mandate in conjunction and co-operation with other stakeholders in a multi-sectoral approach. By its nature, border management relates to a myriad of systems in place to control the movement of goods and people across national boundaries.

4.4 It was further submitted to the Committee that border control duties are not the preserve of the Zimbabwe Republic Police alone, but the organisation does it in partnership with the Department of Immigration which regulates the movement of people and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority responsible for management of goods and services.

4.5 In discharging their duties, the Committee was informed that border control officials ensure that people with valid and proper or acceptable travel documents and goods are granted leave to enter into or depart from the country upon satisfaction of certain conditions. In the same vein, it was established that both the Zimbabwe Republic Police and the Department of Immigration has not fared well in the discharge of its mandate due to a myriad of challenges.

4.6 The Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage submitted that effective and efficient border control had been negatively affected by the porosity, lack of roads and rugged nature of the border line that does not have a man-made demarcation or barrier. This made it easier for smugglers to export or import their contrabands trough unofficial crossing points along the border line.

4.7Further, the terrain and lengthy nature of the border line makes it difficult for the border control agency to conduct patrols like foot, motorised and horse since some areas are infested with land mines. The total distances on the stretch of the border line demonstrate the extent of the problem as illustrated in the table.

Border

Stretch of the border line (km)

Zimbabwe- South Africa

225

Zimbabwe- Mozambique

1231

Zimbabwe- Zambia

797

Zimbabwe- Botswana

813

4.8 Furthermore, it was submitted that border control agencies did not have motor vehicles to use when conducting patrols. Although there were various bases established at well-known crossing points, there was a serious challenge with regards to the provision of travelling and subsistence allowances, rations, uniform and tents to cater for welfare of officers on deployment.

4.9 In the same vein, deployments usually took an average of 30 days. This had negatively impacted on morale, efficiency and effectiveness of officers, hence rendering them susceptible to corruption.

4.10 It was highlighted to the Committee that human trafficking by its nature is subtle and not easily identifiable at the ports of entry.

4.11 Section 3 of Trafficking in Persons Act 4 of 2014 defines human trafficking as involving any person who trafficks any individual by transporting him or her into, outside and within Zimbabwe involuntarily by way of force, violence, threats, subdue by use of drugs, fraud, inducements or voluntarily for an unlawful purpose.

4.12 Other challenges which were submitted related to fact that all border posts were not installed with closed circuit television to detect offences of bribes, corruption and smuggling of goods. Border control officials also lacked skills, decent accommodation, office space and they usually work for long hours daily.

5.0 Touring of Beitbridge and Forbes Border Post

The Committee made the following findings during the tour of the border posts:

5.1 Human trafficking and smuggling

5.1.1 The Committee was informed that Section 3 of Trafficking in Persons Act of 2014 define human trafficking as the transportation of individual into or outside and inside a country voluntarily by way of force, violence, threats, fraud, subdue by use of drugs for an unlawful purpose. The above definition makes it difficult to easily identify cases of human trafficking.

5.1.2 Human smuggling involves the use of fraudulent documents and parties agree on a facilitation fee which is in violation of one or more countries laws. The Department of Immigration had on record cases of Zimbabweans and other nationalities who are arrested whilst being smuggled into neighbouring countries such as Mozambique and South Africa through undesignated crossing points, particularly minors.

5.1.3 The Committee noted that the Department has on record a total of 92 minors whom they had referred to the department of Social Welfare after being intercepted at Beitbridge Border Post in 2019. In addition, a total of 82 deportations had been effected as from January to June. Thus, on average about 15 people being trafficked per month.

5.2.0 Illegal crossing

5.2.1 In relation to illegal entry and exit, the Committee established that stretches for up to 255km, border policing is being done in areas covering less than 50kms and the remaining area becomes easily accessible for illegal crossing. Statistics submitted to the Committee showed that a total of 16 187 have been arrested for illegal crossing from January to June 2019. This is a significant number and it can be quantified that on average 1 350 people are being arrested on monthly basis.

5.2.2 At Beitbridge Border Post, the Committee appreciates the Government’s efforts for the project underway in upgrading the border as this will go a long way in alleviating challenges emanating from lack of supportive infrastructure.

5.3.0 Scanners

5.3.1 The Committee noted that the Zimbabwe Republic Police was currently relying on employing physical searching methods at all the border posts. However, it was indicated to the Committee that this kind of searches is not efficient enough to detect smuggled items.

5.3.2 In connection with the above, the police did not have hand luggage scanners to detect smuggling of goods concealed in hand luggage or in any part of the body. In this regard, goods such as drugs and gold have a tendency of being smuggled in that fashion.

5.3.3 It was also established that the department did not have surveillance equipment such as drones and helicopters for aerial surveillance to prevent and detect smuggling cases. The Committee further established that at Beitbridge and Forbes Border Posts, the scanners were not functional.

5.4.0 Patrol vehicles

5.4.1 The Committee learnt that the Department did not have vehicles for border patrol operations and currently they are relying on private hire to chase criminals. At Beitbridge Border Post, the Committee was informed that currently nine motorbikes were being used to patrol the whole stretch for anti-smuggling along the Limpopo River from Chikwarakwara on the east up to Shashe River. The stretch from Beitbridge to Sango Border is nearly 200km and Beitbridge to Tuli is around185km. The same challenge was also reported at Forbes Border Post where it was reported that the stretch from Forbes to Nyamapanda Border post is nearly 530km.

5.5 Border control

5.5.1 The Committee was also informed that police had forward bases situated at strategic points which are 10km apart along the Limpopo River in case of Beitbridge and along Binya Road in case of Forbes Border Post. The aim is to thwart rampant smuggling and illegal crossing activities some of which involve stolen vehicles. Supervision for those on deployment was not being done since the motor cycles are old and constantly off the road.

5.5.2 The Committee was also informed at Beitbridge Border Post that they deal with high volumes of accused persons on daily basis but had no vehicle to ferry them to the mother station. At Forbes Border Post it was submitted that, the border deals with large numbers during festive season from and to Mozambique.

5.6 Accommodation

5.6.1 It was submitted to the Committee that Immigration officers stayed in outside camps since the border does not have facilities for their accommodation. Rentals were reported to be as high as R800-1000 per room in Beitbridge. The situation was now compelling staff to look for accommodation in nearby areas outside the border in search for cheap rentals. The same challenge affected officers at Forbes Border Post who have to seek cheaper accommodation in Mutare.

5.6.2 This scenario is tantamount to driving officers at border posts into corruption. A request was made for Government to consider construction of official accommodation since they are currently vulnerable to corruption and temptation.

5.7 Marking of the border

5.7.1 It was reported to the Committee that along all border lines there was no demarcation between traditional and administrative boundaries. At Forbes Border Post, the Committee was informed that Chief Musikavanhu`s boundaries stretches in to Mozambique. This means most communities have relatives residing on either side of the border. It was further propounded that farm labourers cross the border every day to work at Tanganda Estates and a solution was needed to assist the company to remain functional.

5.7.2 Whereas the Immigration Department is mandated to focus more on facilitating cross border movement at designated ports. At Forbes Border Post, the Committee was told that most schools dotted along the border enroll pupils from Mozambique and they cross the border twice a day. The problem is compounded by the fact that the international boundaries were marked separating families as well as fields as the case at Forbes Border Post, Mozambicans have fields in Zimbabwe.

5.7.3 Further, it was presented to the Committee that Beacon Hill Primary School in Chipinge has 33 pupils from Mozambique and South Down has 527 in the Garaba area. Additionally, the existence of intermarriages compels locals to cross border line.

5.8 Communication

5.8.1 The Committee whilst touring Beitbridge Border Post was told that there is no method of communication between both sides of borders. It was submitted to the Committee that since there were no electronic spikes to control traffic movement sometimes vehicles hit the boom on Zimbabwean side and cross South African. At Forbes Border Post, the Committee was informed about the no man`s land which is in –between Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Police find it difficult to arrest culprits since smugglers usually run over to that place.

5.9 Foreign nationals

5.9.1 At Forbes Border Post Immigration Officials informed the Committee that the Tongogara Refugee Camp had 751 people at the time of the visit who were denied refugee status but were still in the country. This meant that they were violating the laws of the country and the matter needed redress by the Government. It was reported that some of the people at Tongogara Refugee Camp are now posing security threat since at any time they could commit a crime and run away

5.9.2 The Committee was also informed that implementation of the Rwandan Cessation Clause had become so prolonged and needed to be finalised as all efforts to repatriate the Rwandans to their country had been in vain since they are resisting to go back home. These people are conducting illegal activities such as business in the country.

5.10Land mines

5.10.1 It was submitted to the Committee that many areas along the border lines were still infested with land mines which makes patrolling of the area difficult. The situation is further compounded by the total distances of respective borders which unambiguously demonstrate the extent of the problem, for instance the stretch between Zimbabwe and South Africa which is 225km. Thus, patrol on such areas can only be effective using drones.

5.11 Closed circuit television

5.11.1 The Committee was told that all border posts are not installed with CCTVs for detecting smuggled goods and preventing corruption by border control officials. Lack of CCTVs makes it difficult to detect offences of bribery which take place between importers or exporters and border control officials. A call was made for Government to speed up the installation of closed circuit televisions at all border posts.

5.11.2 The Committee also learnt that the Zimbabwe Republic Police in its quest to prevent and detect smuggling of goods does not have the expertise to monitor and interpret scan images. However, this leaves the organisation with no means to verify the contents of containerised consignments, hence a request was made for capacity building.

5.12 Commanded control

5.12.1 It was reported to the Committee that there is confusion of who is in charge of the border between the Zimbabwe Revenue Authority and Immigration Department since there is no Ports Authority. An appeal was made for the establishment of Ports Authority.

5.13 Corruption

5.13.1 The Committee was informed that corruption involving Immigration Officials was rampant at border posts involving Immigration officials. The statistics presented to the Committee shows that out of a total of 186 immigration officials implicated for corruption, 177 were convicted and only 9 were acquitted.

5.13.2 It was submitted to the Committee that the existing infrastructure at all border posts was outdated and inefficient. At Forbes Border Post, the infrastructure was very minimal resulting in traffic congestion compounded by the fact that there was no room for extension. It was reported at both border posts that there is limited office space as well as furniture.

5.14 Legislative shortcomings

5.14.1 The Immigration Act (Chapter 4.02) was not deterrent enough since the Act did not provide any provision which outlaws certain illegal activities and penalties for those illegal activities. It was clearly highlighted to the Committee that there is no provision at law to penalize those illegal activities, hence the need to expand the scope of legislation which enhances travellers and operators’ controls. For airlines, the Carriers Liability Act is a deterrent instrument and the same needs to be done for road operators. Lessons can be drawn from the South African jurisdiction where several penalties are levied on operators who violate the law.

5.15 Travelling and subsistence allowances

5.15.1 The Committee was told that travelling and subsistence allowances was last paid in 2008 and the total outstanding arrears exceeds US$300 000.00. Members were dividing their meagre salaries between themselves and their families in order to sustain themselves whilst on deployments at large distances far away from their ordinary places of residence.

5.15.2 The Committee was further informed that members on deployment were not well equipped with full patrol kits such as tents and rations. It was also confirmed that moral was indeed low even as officers continue to put their maximum efforts to prevent illegal crossing.

6.0 Current strategies being implemented to address the challenges

6.1 Awareness campaign

6.1.1 The Committee was informed that the department is conducting regular awareness campaigns through the radio, television and road shows to sensitise members of the public about implications associated with human trafficking and smuggling.

6.2 Joint patrols

6.2.1 The Committee was told that the security agencies at border areas were conducting joint patrols along the border lines to curb illegal crossing and other crimes. In addition, Zimbabwe Republic Police had established more bases at illegal crossing points along the border line. For example at the border between Zimbabwe and South Africa there were 13 bases and at the border between Zimbabwe and Mozambique there were 32 bases.

6.2.2 Further to the above, it was also reported to the Committee that respective provincial commanders of the security forces were conducting bilateral meetings with neighbouring countries such as South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana and Zambia to discuss border control related challenges peculiar to their respective areas of operations. These meetings had resulted in joint operations to curb the vices related to management of goods across borders.

6.2.3 It was submitted to the Committee that the Zimbabwe Republic Police was conducting anti-smuggling operations in conjunction with the Zimbabwe Defence Forces at official and unofficial entry and exit points as well as inland. Moreover, the organisation was lobbying Government to provide adequate budgetary support for purchasing rations, uniforms and payment of travelling and subsistence allowances to members performing border patrols duties.

6.3 Installation of Closed Circuit Televisions

6.3.1 With regards to corruption, the Committee was informed that installation of CCTV cameras at most border stations such as Beitbridge and Robert Mugabe International Airport was now complete. CCTV had also been installed at headquarters with the view to roll out this facility to all border stations as a supervisory and monitoring facility. There were also individual date stamps for tracing malpractices. In addition, use of tags for all staff members was meant to enable easy identification by clients especially in case of poor performance.

7.0 Committee Observations

After considerations of submissions from the Permanent Secretary and tour of the border posts, the Committee made the following observations;

1. That travelling and subsistence allowances had last been paid in 2008 and the total outstanding arrears exceeds US$300 000.00 and members were dividing their meagre salaries with their families in order to sustain themselves;

2. That there was no proper awareness campaigns being conducted by the Immigration Department to educate the public on human trafficking and smuggling;

3. That the Zimbabwe Republic Police was seriously incapacitated to monitor smuggling of goods as they do not have modern IT equipment;

4. That Zimbabwe Republic Police officers were prone to corruption, since they were being deployed without their subsistence allowances;

5. That there was poor command and control of the border posts;

6. That delays in clearing land mines along the border lines was making it difficult for the Zimbabwe Republic Police to conduct patrols;

7. That the Department of Immigration was short staffed, and officers were working overtime without being paid;

8. That border control agencies had lost control as a result of increasing number of touts and foreigners who were harassing local traditional leaders around the border;

9. That the Department of Immigration faces office space and accommodation challenges;

10. That the Department of Immigration did not have patrol vehicles to monitor crossing points resulting in loss of revenue as food, drugs and vehicle were being smuggled across the Limpopo River.

11. That at Forbes Border Post, there were CCTVs and at Beitbridge the gadgets were not working;

12. That there were no spikes to control vehicle traffic and radio for communication; and

13. That there was poor infrastructure and road networks along the border areas.

8.0 Recommendations.

Cognisant of the above observations, the Committee recommends as follows;

1. That the Police Service Commission should make sure that deployees are paid travelling and subsistence allowances in time to curb the ego for corrupt activities and the outstanding arrears be settled by December 2020.

2. That the Department of Immigration should conduct regular proper awareness campaigns to educate the public about the effects of human trafficking and smuggling.

3. That beginning year 2020, Zimbabwe Republic Police should be well equipped with patrol kits including vehicles, scanners, drones, tents and other necessities. Treasury should avail funding for the purchase of a comprehensive patrol kit in the 2020 Budget.

4. That by December 2020, Government should establish a Ports Authority for easy management of border posts.

5. That the Department of Immigration urgently installs CCTVs at all border posts to detect and prevent smuggling of goods and human trafficking by December 2021.

6. That the Ministry of Defence and War Veterans Affairs expedite clearance of land mines along the border to ensure effective patrols. In the 2020 Budget, Treasury should avail budgetary support for this program.

7. There is need to expand the scope of the Immigration Act (Chapter 4:02) to provide a provision which outlaws certain illegal activities and impose penalties for those illegal activities.

8. That the Department of Immigration should urgently regularize many unregulated crossing points for Government to realise increased revenue by December 2021.

9. That in the 2020 Budget, Treasury should avail adequate budgetary support to the Department of Immigration for infrastructure development such as accommodation and office facilities.

10. That the Department of Immigration, by June 2020 should introduce the use of electronic spikes and immediate communication gadgets to facilitate hot pursuit of criminal activities.

9.0 Conclusion

Informed by these pertinent observations, the Committee hopes the relevant authorities will seriously consider the recommendations made above in order to improve the situation prevailing at the border posts at the time of enquiry.-

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Daniel Chigundu

Daniel Chigundu is the news editor for OpenParlyZW an online platform that covers Parliament of Zimbabwe activities using social media (Twitter and Facebook). He is currently the secretary-general of the Zimbabwe Parliamentary Journalists Forum and a board member of Digital Communication Network.

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