With the lack of movement along the normally lively Matsiloje border, fuel smugglers are becoming increasingly bolder as they go about their business.
Knowing they are unlikely to be spotted and reported to the police, the bandits no longer wait for the cover of darkness to conduct their lucrative but illegal trade.
Although they have made numerous arrests in recent weeks, Matsiloje Station Commander, Charles Mbengwa is convinced this is just the very tip of the iceberg.
“Every week we record a case of smuggling. Since the beginning of the year, we have already recorded more than 10 cases. Our own people in Botswana interact with people from the neighbouring countries to facilitate this crime. We always arrest people with huge quantities of petrol and diesel in big containers, including jojo tanks and 25-litre jerry-cans,” Mbengwa told The Voice in a brief interview this week.
The top cop notes that as well as their illegal activity, the smugglers are potentially spreading Covid-19 across the land.
“They use ungazetted points of entry. They are putting their lives and those of Batswana at risk of Covid-19 because they exchange goods with people from other countries not knowing their status,” said Mbengwa.
The police boss explained that after arresting and charging the suspects’ for possession of unlicenced fuel, the accused then face the wrath of BURS.
Sending a strong warning to the smugglers, Mbengwa declared the cops have joined forces with the army in a bid to stamp out the problem.
“We are working tirelessly with Botswana Defence Force patrolling along the border to arrest the smugglers!”
With petrol being smuggled out of the country, Mbengwa noted alcohol, especially whiskey, tobacco, clothes and other household goods are being trafficked into Botswana.
“They liaise with Batswana who also check whether the border is free so they can do their illicit business.”