POLICE officers in Limpopo have launched a crackdown on criminals and traffic offenders across various parts of the province as part of the Easter safety campaign.
Together with officials from the Limpopo Department of Transport and Community Safety, they have kept watch over different routes leading to Polokwane and Musina on the border between South Africa and Zimbabwe.
This year marked the first, but limited, pilgrimage to the Z.C.C St Engenas Church, which is one of the two Z.C.C churches based in Limpopo. The two churches, the biggest indigenous African churches in Africa, normally attract millions of people to Moria, outside Polokwane, for the annual Easter Pilgrimage.
“Operation Paseka is a campaign that has a double focus of clamping down on opportunistic crime and road safety during this period.
“With the influx of thousands to annual religious pilgrimages across the province as well as visitors to various tourist attractions in the province and people visiting friends and relatives, traffic is expected at a maximum on all national routes and roads including the fatalities during this time due to a range of factors.
“These include reckless and negligent driving, speeding, fatigue, unroadworthy vehicles, and driving under the influence of alcohol and other intoxicants,” said provincial police spokesperson Colonel Malesela Ledwaba.
Limpopo Transport and Community Safety MEC, Florence Radzilani, said law enforcement officers would maintain road safety to prevent congestion on all the major roads leading to the province. This includes the N1, especially around tollgates, R101, R510, R516, N11, R37, R555, R521, R524, R523, R36, R40, R71, R81, P277/1.
The operation also covers the Matlala road, some local routes, and Limpopo’s two border posts, Beitbridge and Groblersbrug.
“As we embark on our journeys, let us make sure that our cars are roadworthy, we keep a safe following distance, we do not overtake at unsafe places, we do not drink and drive, and we rest enough on long journeys. Pedestrians must wear visible colours at night, and keep away from the road. Let’s all arrive alive,” said Radzilani.
Officials from the newly established Border Management Authority (BMA) have been stationed at various ports of entry across the country, including the Beitbridge border post between Musina in Limpopo and Zimbabwe.
BMA Commissioner Mike Masiapato told African Times that they have used a different approach to ensure that there is less congestion at the ports of entry.
Masiapato and his team were first stationed at the Lebombo border post between Mpumalanga and Mozambique. Today they will be at Beitbridge to monitor the implementation of their new approach, he added.
He said an overview suggests that there will soon be a return to pre-Covid numbers on the ports of entry, especially Beitbridge.
“We are still dealing with the exit period as the operations continue. We will await the returns in order for us to determine the exact figures, which will happen after Tuesday.
“One thing we are aware of is that the numbers are increasing when compared to the previous Easter period, especially now with lockdown restrictions no longer in place. However, the same comparison cannot be used for December 2022 because we compare Easter to Easter and December to December,” he said.
The new strategy includes the streamlining of multi-department functions that used to operate separately at the same border posts.
Besides having a Home Affairs law enforcement unit called The Inspectorate, BMA is also working with the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure and Provincial Joint Operational and Intelligence Structures to monitor activities in and around the borders.
They also work with national and provincial departments of transport, municipalities hosting ports of entry, and the private sector, such as trucking companies, to manage the flow of traffic into the ports.
“And we have certainly done our best to ensure that we minimise or eliminate corruption at our ports, including Beitbridge. Previously corruption took place because you had different managers from SARS, Home Affairs, Health Department, Agriculture Department, and the Police Service who reported individually to their head offices.
“Currently, each port of entry has one boss, a commander who has people reporting directly to him. We also have State Security which has been brought in to pick up any corrupt activity from the officers on the ground.
“We will also be starting a vetting process of our officers in order to check their lifestyles and ensure that they are living within their means. This integrated approach will help us win the fight against border corruption,” said Masiapato.
Masiapato said their strategy includes police officers on motorbikes working to keep trucks on the yellow lane and ensure that there is no overtaking.
They also have a seven kilometre centre at Lebombo, where vehicles are diverted to a mobile processing unit.
“The centre is 7km before the border and once processed, the vehicles go through a bypass and drive directly into the next country. We also package smaller vehicles into a group of 50 vehicles that then proceed through the bypass.
“Kilometre 7 could not be implemented at Beitbridge due to a lack of space and a bilateral immigration arrangement with Zimbabwean authorities that allows processed vehicles to proceed past the border without having to queue once they have left South Africa.”