AT least five police officers have been arrested, while more are under investigation over their alleged involvement in smuggling activities along the border with Mozambique as authorities declare zero tolerance against the rampant vice which is bleeding the economy.
National police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi revealed on Wednesday that the seemingly free-for-all situation that was obtaining along the porous border line was due to corrupt law enforcement agents who were working in cahoots with smuggling syndicates.
“The evidence is there on the ground that we have finally won the war against smugglers who had created a free-for-all situation along the border. This is so because we have taken a multi-stakeholder approach which involves all arms of law enforcement in dealing with smugglers. The ongoing operation will continue indefinitely until order reigns.
“Corruption among some of our officers manning the borderline was negatively affecting our operations to restore order. At least five police officers have been arrested on allegations of working with syndicates to smuggle contraband into the country and a lot more are still under investigations.
“We are saying zero tolerance against corruption and we mean it. Smugglers were carrying on with their illegal enterprise because there were some law enforcement agents who were looking the other way after receiving bribes. We have put an end to that and that is why everything has gone back to normal. Trade with the outside world should take place via legal entry points at the borders and not through the bush,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi said the recent successes in combating smuggling are largely due to the priceless support the police is receiving from members of the public who are supplying tip-offs regarding the movement of the smugglers.
“These smugglers are cunning and dynamic. They change their operations and routes daily in order to evade arrests, but members of the public have been supplying useful information resulting in numerous arrests. This is the cooperation we need because smuggling bleeds the economy and it affects us all.
“A litany of strategies has been put in place so that we deal with smuggling once-and-for-all. I cannot tell you everything because that will jeopardise our operations, but what I can assure you is that there will be no peace for would-be smugglers.
“On the other hand, the media played a big part in exposing this rot and bringing everything to the attention of the authorities. This is the kind of coverage we need to bring out corrupt activities,” he said.
Assistant Commissioner Nyathi also said the recent arrest of three suspects who had smuggled more than 19 000 litres of diesel into the country through Chipinge show that law enforcement agents are manning the entire borderline.
He said some of the smugglers who ordinarily used illegal routes near Mutare have shifted and are now trying out some routes in remote places.
“We have all the information and law enforcement agencies are manning the length and breadth of the entire borderline. Everything should get into the country through official points,” he reiterated.
The three suspects from Harare were last week hauled before a Mutare provincial magistrate on allegations of contravening the Customs and Exercise Act after they had smuggled 19 000litres of diesel from Mozambique via an illegal crossing point at Southdowns in Chipinge.
The trio – Charles Dube (54), Tanaka Kwaadini (27) and Dennis Chinokora (27) – appeared before Mr Langton Mukwengi and were denied bail.
Public prosecutor, Mr Tafadzwa Chiwanza said on July 14, Assistant Inspector Onward Tembedza received information that some trucks were smuggling fuel into Zimbabwe using an undesignated crossing border point in Chipinge.
A team of four police officers from Mutare Central District Police Intelligence Unit reacted to the information and laid an ambush at the Southdowns illegal crossing point near Makuyana Village.
Mr Chiwanza said the police officers spotted an unregistered DAF CF tanker truck crossing into Zimbabwe and intercepted it.
Upon being interviewed, the occupants indicated that they were carrying approximately 19 000l of diesel.
They failed to produce the relevant documents and the tanker was subsequently impounded and escorted to ZRP Mutare Central together with the accused persons.