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Concern raised over corpses smuggling

by Staff reporter
25 Jul 2020 at 08:33hrs | Views
GOVERNMENT has expressed concern over reports that bodies of Zimbabweans who could have died from Covid-19 in neighbouring countries are being smuggled into the country, saying that could be a source of the spike in local spread of the virus.

Police have since activated its officers on the country's borders to be on high alert to detect such illicit practices.

International truckers and the cross-border couriers known as "omalayitsha", who remit money and commodities across the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe are allegedly at the centre of the scandal. They are reportedly transporting the corpses for a fee.

Reports are that some of the corpses are wrapped in plain sheets and bundled together with groceries, exposing recipients to the deadly Covid19 pandemic.

Social media platforms are awash with videos, audios and pictures showing the smuggled coffins with the remains of a suspected Covid-19 victim.

In one of the videos, a truck allegedly belonging to "omalayitsha" is seen offloading groceries and a coffin at an unknown home where a funeral was being conducted. The coffin and groceries were loaded in the same trailer.

In another picture also circulating on social media, a coffin laden with groceries and a corpse can be clearly seen with unconfirmed reports linked the body to Covid-19.

In a tweet, Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information, Publicity and Broadcasting Services Mr Nick Mangwana said the rot could be the reason for the spike in local Covid-19 transmissions.

"The smuggling of goods hidden as contraband in a coffin carrying the remains of a Covid-19 victim is a concern. The people that handle, use or eat such goods are being exposed to the virus. "One never knows how prevalent the practice is but this may explain some local transmissions," he said.

Mr Mangwana said this kind of smuggling is possible because borders are porous.

"The porousness of our long border has become a cliché. People are smuggling human bodies through undesignated crossing points, putting themselves and others at risk from Covid19 infection. In some cases, there is corrupt collusion with those who are supposed to apprehend them."

National police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi warned people against smuggling bodies although he indicated no such reports had been officially received by the police. He said police, Zimra and immigration officers at the borders were now on high alert and any such practices would be detected.

"We want to urge members of the public to report to the police if they see such things happening so that investigations can be conducted.  But at the moment we do not have any concrete evidence to what is being alleged.

"We have alerted all officers who are policing at the borders so that they work together with officers from the Immigration and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (ZIMRA). They should remain alert," Asst Comm Nyathi said.

Source - the herald

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