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Passport scam at Zim's borders with South Africa and Botswana

by Hangoyapalala Wa Tjibundule
01 Aug 2014 at 11:25hrs | Views
Corruption at the Zimbabwe's borders with South Africa and Botswana continues unabated with unscrupulous immigration officers from either country allegedly making a killing out of illegally stamping passports of Zimbabwean nationals who would have overstayed in the two neighbouring countries.

Bulawayo24 has it on good authority that Zimbabwean immigrants who overstay in South Africa and Botswana fork out between 500 and 700 rand/pula to have their travel documents stamped forged convenient dates of entry and exit that conceal their illegal stay in those countries.

Immigration officers on either side of the borders are reportedly conniving with omalayitsha and bus operators in the scam in which most of the passports are illicitly stamped in the absence of their holders.

While the number of Zimbabwean immigrants with passports has increased, most of them do not have working permits to regularise their lengthy stay in the neighbouring countries.

In 2010, the South African government embarked on a documentation programme for Zimbabweans living in that country but the exercise was suspended last year after the South African immigration had processed approximately 250 000 work permits leaving several Zimbabweans without proper documentation.

While the South-African government has made some efforts to regularize the stay of Zimbabweans living in that country, the Botswana government on the other hand has often been accused of tightening screws on foreigners especially Zimbabweans with reports indicating that only a few  lucky Zimbabweans have work permits in that country.

The plight of Zimbabweans in the two neighboring countries has forced many to devise survival strategies that flout immigration laws of their country and those of neighbouring countries.

A probe by Bulawayo24 indicates that most immigrants with passports only use them to gain entry into the two neighbouring countries where most of them work.

Silibaziso Ncube who works in South Africa confessed that she overstays with her passport, and gives it omalayitsha to have it stamped.

"As you know that most of us do not have workers permits, we have no option to overstay in South Africa.

"But that is not a problem because we pay omalayitsha between 500 and 700 rands or bus drivers to have our passports stamped before we return to Zimbabwe," she said innocently.

Ncube also confided to this reporter that when returning home they pay about 200 rands at the border post so that they are not detained for crossing the borders without passports.

Mncedisi Ndlovu who works in the neighbouring Botswana echoed similar sentiments.

"I acquired a Zimbabwean passport last year but I only use it twice a year because I have no permit to work in Botswana.

"It depends with umalayitsha but I pay between 400 and 600 pula to have my passport stamped at the border every month," he said.

But immigration officer-in-charge of the Western region, Nqobile Ncube professed ignorance about the scam. He however warned perpetrators that they risked being prosecuted for contravening immigration laws.

"I am totally unaware of the scam but what I can say is that the scheme is criminal and those who are involved risk being prosecuted."

"If there is anything untoward happening at our borders it is illegal and we are keen to investigate anything of that nature."

He added: "I would like to advise passport holders in neighboring countries to keep their documents so that they don't compromise their identities."

Home Affairs Minister Kembo Mohadi was non-committal when phoned for comment but scoffed it as "fraud" before dropping his mobile phone.

Source - Byo24News