Smugglers terrorize Plumtree
PLUMTREE villagers say they are being terrorised by gangs involved in the smuggling of goods from neighbouring Botswana who rob them of their valuables.
The smugglers, who operate from illegal entry points along the porous border, are experiencing booming business at the expense of locals in the Mathambo area, about 30km from Plumtree town. They allegedly set up camps and cut the border fence to gain entry into Botswana.
Villagers’ livestock use the illegal entry points to cross into the neighbouring country where they are shot by security forces to control the spread of the foot-and-mouth disease.
The distraught villagers told the area MP Dingumuzi Phuti at a recent meeting at Dombolefu business centre that they needed urgent intervention from the police.
“We have problems with border jumpers. Our area is close to the Plumtree border post and smugglers who want to evade paying duty use the illegal entry points,” said former Bulilima Rural District Council chairperson Morgen Ndebele.
“They cut our border fence so as to be able to smuggle fridges, beds, wardrobes, washing machines, stoves and other goods they bring in.
“This has caused great problems for us as our cattle stray into Botswana using those illegal exit points and get shot. We are appealing to you to invite the police so that they camp here.”
Another villager, MaGumbo, said some of the villagers were harbouring the criminals.
“Some of us who have plots close to the border are to blame. These smugglers come and sleep at our homesteads as we give them blankets,” she said.
“We are the same people who provide donkey-drawn carts to carry smuggled goods during the night. We are to blame for the menace. We should not aid them, but report them to the police.”
Matabeleland South police spokesperson Chief Inspector Philisani Ndebele said villagers should report smugglers to the police and stop sheltering them.
“Smuggling has always been a problem and as police, we are on the ground,” he said. “However, we are appealing for maximum cooperation from the community to inform us of these activities and bring the smuggling business to an end.
“If the villagers stop harbouring them, we are definitely going to score successes. Smugglers can do anything as they could also start committing offences against those who harbour them.”
Phuti said he would advise the police to intensify their patrols along the border to curb smuggling.