DRONES will soon be patrolling the country’s borders as Government moves to address security challenges posed by border jumpers who could be spreading infections by avoiding compulsory quarantine and testing.
Defence and War Veterans Affairs Minister Oppah Muchinguri-Kashiri said her ministry received funding for its Covid-19 support from the Ministry of Finance and Economic Development as well and China donated 40 trucks to the army.
This came out yesterday when Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri, who is the deputy chairperson of the taskforce against Covid-19, appeared before the Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence, Home Affairs and Security Services to give oral evidence on how the Inter-Ministerial Taskforce on Covid-19 was handling security matters.
The committee, chaired by Cde Callisto Gwanetsa, heard that the involvement of the defence forces was allowed since they were providing assistance to the civil power.
Some of the duties of the ZDF in the enforcement of the lockdown measures included manning checkpoints within cities and on highways to ensure that only those exempted were allowed to move around carrying out their critical duties.
The defence forces and the police were also involved in joint border patrols to curb the illegal border crossings by returning residents, which have reportedly been on the increase since the closure of the official borders in March.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri expressed concern over policing the country’s borders to contain illegal crossings by both pedestrian and vehicular traffic into the country, and the danger of importing Covid-19 infections.
Zimbabwe has borders with Botswana (813km), Mozambique (1 231km), South Africa (255km) and Zambia (767km) adding up to a stretch of 3 066km.
“Police were given motorbikes. We were given an allocation to purchase vehicles so the police will buy some. The army does not have vehicles, but the good news is that we received some 40 trucks from China. We are using these trucks to make sure we cover as much ground as possible. They will not be adequate, but it’s better than nothing,” she said.
Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri added that although the borders would not be adequately patrolled using drones the good thing was that the use of technology had also been recommended for the monitoring of commercial vehicles transiting through Zimbabwe.
“SADC has agreed to the movement of commercial goods throughout the region to balance health needs and economic imperatives,” she said.
Further, Minister Muchinguri-Kashiri raised concern over the shortage of personal protective equipment, which branded a serious challenge affecting the security forces working in the Covid-19 frontline.
“Inadequate funding for food, transport, fuel and kitting, which became perennial after the imposition of illegal sanctions also took its toll on both the morale of troops and their effectiveness.
“The main challenge confronting the Zimbabwe Defence Forces in fighting Covid-19 is lack of resources.”
She noted that the same committee had frequently heard about the scarcity of funds for normal operations.
“While the Ministry is making frantic efforts to acquire adequate personal protective equipment, its efforts were recently complemented by a donation from the Ministry of Defence of the People’s Republic of China worth more than US$300 000.
“Temptation comes in some situations as our soldiers do not have rations. It is important that we get resources so that our soldiers will not be tempted.
“On the issue of rations, we requested for $500 million, but were only allocated $100 million, which is a drop in the ocean. It remains a concern. This is a security issue because it affects our economy. We have certain elements such as those who were in prison who may cause havoc.
“We are concerned about 170 hardcore criminals released from our neighbouring countries who escaped from quarantine centres recently. Some of them have already started causing havoc in the communities. Some do not have identity documents and it becomes difficult to trace them,” she said.
Minister Muchinguri Kashiri said those involved in supporting efforts to contain infections were also receiving risk allowance and had free health medical care.
She dismissed claims that Zimbabwean forces were in Mozambique saying these were just social media rumours.
“Zimbabwe is mindful that these issues are issues of a regional thrust. There is strength in Zimbabwe working with other countries. Zimbabwe is still chairing the Organ on Politics, Defence and Security Cooperation and we know that when a neighbour is under attack we seek a regional approach to these matters.
“As a region we cannot go in to settle a problem that will overflow to other countries. We are bound by certain rules and regulations that a member cannot go in without general understanding or agreement.
“Our region is peaceful. Those are social media rumours that are dangerous and should be dismissed.”