ZIMRA, police, harass returning migrants

bus_zimBEITBRIDGE Zimbabwean migrants returning to their home country from neighbouring South Africa are being made to pay bribes of up to R150 to Zimbabwe Revenue Authority officers manning the Beitbridge border post. (Pictured: Returning Zimbabweans stuck on a bus while other passengers are interrogated.)

In what is said to have started early this year, the returning migrants, most of whom do not have proper travelling documents, go through a lot of harassment in the hands of the ZIMRA officers and police officers at the nearby police post, who accuse them of having gone to South Africa to sell false information about Zimbabwe.

The unfortunate ones, or those that cannot raise the required amount, are briefly detained at the police post before they can be released. The payment system began in January and has been continuing since then, said a bus conductor who operates between Beitbridge and Harare. At times the officials demand money from us, accusing us of carrying illegal passengers, but most of the time they arrest the travellers themselves and cause a lot of delays to our schedules because we cannot leave behind people who bought their tickets.

Some migrants are said to have lost some of their belongings due to the inconvenience, while others have reportedly used some of their goods to bribe the officials. ZIMRA officers first search bags that would have been removed from bus trailers, while the owners stand guard, after which the officers stand at the bus doors, demanding passports from the travellers as they get into the bus.

Those who do not have passports are immediately arrested and dragged by their trousers belts to the police post, where they are made to sit on the ground during interrogation. Most of the time we ask our passengers who do not have passports to register their names and give us their money, which should be between R50 and R150 so that we negotiate with the officers and pay on their behalf, said another conductor.

ZIMRA and police officers at the post refused to talk to The Zimbabwean, claiming that they were doing their jobs. Why should we explain our job to you? We do not work that way. Go to Harare if you want comment and tell them the names of those you saw taking bribes or harassing people, said one officer.

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