South Africa ups border security amid Christmas travel
South Africa says it is ramping up border security 'to ensure the safe and smooth movement of travelers.' Rights activists worry the government is targeting Zimbabwean migrants traveling home for Christmas.
Johannesburg, South Africa — South Africa has deployed hundreds of soldiers, police, and intelligence personnel to tighten security at the northern border with Zimbabwe, a senior official announced on Friday.
The Beitbridge-Musina border crossing between Zimbabwe and South Africa is one of the busiest international roadways in Africa. Many travelers to and from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, and Mozambique pass through.
Home Affairs spokesman Ronnie Mamoepa today told the Monitor that increased security was aimed at ensuring security and speedy travel at Christmastime. "As a department, we are confident that all the required measures are in place to ensure the safe and smooth movement of travelers into and out of the country," he says.
But some Zimbabweans and human rights activists see the deployment of police, soldiers, and intelligence officers as an attempt to stop the migration of Zimbabweans into South Africa.
It is estimated that more than 3 million Zimbabweans are living in South Africa, some of them illegally, and the latest deployment of security agencies comes as a Dec. 31 deadline for Zimbabweans to renew their asylum status in South Africa approaches. Christmas is a peak season for many foreigners living in South Africa to visit family in their home countries.
Mr. Mamoepa says the Department of Home Affairs has ensured optimal security for South Africans by working closely with other government departments and agencies such as the South Africa Police Service (SAPS), South Africa National Defence Force (SANDF), Intelligence and the Border Control Coordinating Committee (BCOCC), and the South Africa Revenue Service (SARS).
Mamoepa says top priority has been put on the Zimbabwe/South Africa border-post at Musina-Beitbridge, where there is always a high volume of travelers.
He says borders where Home Affairs would provide tight security include the Lebombo border post between South Africa and Mozambique, Ficksburg border post between Lesotho and South Africa, the Oshoek border post between South Africa and Swaziland, and the Kopfontein border post between Botswana and South Africa
"As a consequence of 24-hour monitoring through its operations center, the department will be in a position to rotate this capacity at short notice to ports of entry with high volumes," says Mamoepa. Home Affairs has also added 198 officials at key land ports of entry.