Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
South African police have intensified searches for a five year old girl who went missing near the New Limpopo Bridge a fortnight ago when 11 illegal Malawian immigrants she was travelling with were attacked by a hippopotamus.Limpopo police spokesperson Colonel Ronel Otto today confirmed that some of the immigrants had escaped with minor injuries following the
attack. She said the girl and her mother were part of the group which wanted to enter that country illegally through Beitbridge border post on the
night of December 31.
“Along the way they were chased by a hippopotamus and some sustained minor injuries. They ran away in all directions and since then the five year old girl went missing” she said.
“Despite extended searches nothing has been found yet. Members of the SAPS search and rescue unit as well as the Air wing intensified search operations during the weekend”.
She said the mother tried to look for the girl without success for a week until she reported to the police last week. The police spokesperson urged members of the public to ensure that they are documented and to make use of official entry points to avoid risking their lives of prosecution.
“Too many people die trying to enter illegally whether it is through drowning, attacks by animals or being attacked by heartless criminals who rape, rob or kill”.
There are an estimated 200 illegal crossing points between South Africa and Zimbabwe’s boundary line. The rampant illegal movement of people and smuggling of goods between the two countries have seen border authorities intensifying patrol on both sides of the river.
In December alone a total of 200 children were intercepted along the boundary line while being smuggled to South Africa. Three people including a nine year old boy were attacked and killed by a hippo near the same scene while trying to illegally cross into South Africa. In may last year two criminals who were in the habit of waylaying and robbing border jumpers at the spillway and Dulibadzimu gorges respectively were also killed by a hippo along the same river.
A few months ago a gang of 18 men including suspected border jumpers and fisherman teamed up and killed a crocodile which wanted to attack them at an illegal crossing point along the Limpopo River some 900 meters east of the Alfred BeitBridge.