ZIMBABWE and Mozambique share a long history of co-existence from time immemorial as the two countries’ economies are rooted in agriculture.
Between the mid-13th to the mid-15th century, the two countries’ social and political organisation became more complex with the development of local industries and trade, specifically the mining of gold, copper, and iron ore and the development of salt pans, tool forges, and potting industries.
Nevertheless, the local communities on either side of the border have co-existed peacefully, some of them even sharing water sources like the Pungwe and Gairezi Rivers.
Furthermore, family links between Zimbabwe and Mozambique are common through marriages and migration either way.
The sister liberation movements of Zanla in Zimbabwe and Frelimo in Mozambique cemented the relationship as they shared same bases in fighting the yoke of colonialism from the British and Portuguese respectively.
Cross-border movements of either people or goods have been going on for centuries.
However, the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic and insurgencies in the northern most part of Mozambique, particularly in the Cabo Delgado Province, now call for close scrutiny of movements of both goods and people.
Various groups, including a group known as Ahlu Sunna Wa-Jama, have claimed responsibility for some of the attacks which have left more than 400 people dead and 100 000 people displaced.
The twin evils of the Covid-19 pandemic and insurgencies now highlight the need to strengthen border security.
What is compounding the situation is the sad scenario that has seen returning residents from either neighbouring countries or abroad triggering a spike in Covid-19 cases.
The porous nature of the border from Fombe in Nyanga to Mahenye in Chipinge calls for vigilance on the part of villagers staying along the border as well as authorities from both countries. Fears abound that the continuous movement of goods and people between the two neighbouring countries using undesignated entry points may undermine all the efforts that are being made to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
While it is common knowledge that people desperately need to put food on their tables, lives should not be risked for the sake of a few dollars raised through illegal activities like smuggling second-hand clothes and illicit brews.
The opening of the informal sector does not mean a boom in illegal cross-border activities. Unfortunately, second-hand clothes dealers are mushrooming across the province, especially in high-density suburbs, while others are resorting to car boot sales.
Some bad apples within the security sector are reportedly turning a blind eye to the illegal activities, while some are reportedly having their palms greased to facilitate illegal passage of both goods and people along the border. These should be weeded out as no one is immune to Covid-19.
With the insurgencies threatening neighbouring Mozambique’s national security, we applaud the recent stance taken by Sadc to stand shoulder-to-shoulder and confront the issue as a united block.
Successfully combating terrorism requires renewed and firm commitment from all Sadc member states as effective border security is key to the effective implementation of counter-terrorism measures.
We also call for the strengthening of control of the issuance of identity papers and travel documents and the introduction of measures to prevent counterfeiting, forgery or fraudulent use of identity papers and travel documents across the region.
Unity and co-operation of all stakeholders will see the sister nations of Zimbabwe and Mozambique winning in this fight against the illegal cross-border movements that are threatening our health, economic and political fortunes.