Makeshift border footbridge demolished National Security Taskforce members in Beitbridge destroy a makeshift footbridge on Tuesday that was recently constructed by smugglers about 1km East of the New Limpopo Bridge

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau

Another makeshift bridge that was being used by smugglers and border jumpers to cross into Zimbabwe and South Africa, has been destroyed by the National Security Task Force (NTF) to curb illegal activities.

The bridge was made of wood.

It was constructed recently about 1km east of the New Limpopo Bridge.

“Owners” of the bridge were charging an access fee of between R20 and R100 for smugglers and border jumpers.

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said they were making good progress in eradicating crime along the border with South Africa.

“As the police, we want to warn those engaging in crime along the border that their days are numbered,” he said.

“We encourage those who want to travel or move goods between Zimbabwe and South Africa to always use the formal and legal port of entry.”

The use of makeshift bridges and wood rafts has become common at the Limpopo River, but the security taskforce continues to confiscate and destroy the boats and bridges.

Indications are that there are more than 200 illegal crossing points along the 250km border of the Limpopo River.

The most common illegal crossing points are Pandamine, River Ranch, Dite, Mawale, Mai Maria, Gate 2 and Musetshe.

A border official said yesterday that the makeshift bridges were being constructed near the spillway and the National Parks compound.

“With the water levels in Limpopo River receding in recent weeks, a number of illegal entry points have emerged.

“So, the National Security Task Force is intensifying patrols at all the crime hotspots,” said the official.

In separate interviews, Beitbridge residents said efforts by the Government to restore sanity along the borderline were welcome.

“Destroying the makeshift bridge was ideal considering that a lot of people have been robbed there. We thank the security agents for coming up with that initiative. They have saved a life or two by that move,” said Ms Mercy Mbedzi.

Another resident who preferred anonymity said all efforts to clean up crime at the Limpopo River were commendable.

He said criminals had turned the borderline into their haven, putting the lives of people at risk.

“The use of illegal crossing points at the Limpopo River has been going on for a long time. Many people were robbed and some were killed by the criminals. As a law abiding citizen, I want to urge travellers and importers to follow laid down legal procedures when crossing borders,” he said.

Mr Humbulani Ndou said the ongoing patrols along the border would improve the Government’s capacity to collect reasonable revenues at Beitbridge Border Post.

“We are happy that something is being done to minimise illegal activities along the borderline, where many female migrants are being abused by criminals,” said Mr Ndou of Dulivhadzimu suburb.

In the last 12 months, over 10 makeshift wood rafts have been destroyed along the borderline as security forces intensify the clampdown on illegal activities.

A few weeks ago, a Mozambican woman and her 3-year-old baby girl drowned near the National Parks compound when a makeshift wood raft they were using to cross from South Africa capsized.

Their bodies are yet to be retrieved.

Last year, security agents also destroyed another makeshift bridge near the same area that is infested with crocodiles and hippopotamuses.

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