The officers said that they have been edged out of their work stations by these independent consultants who are commonly known as “magumaguma”.
They told a visibly shocked Tsiane that they have been forced to stand by and remain idle while the independent consultants take over their duties, but at a price to the travelers.
“These people are fully equipped with immigration officers’ uniforms, stationery and government stamps, such that customers are unable to discern between us and them. While we provide services for free, the bogus immigration officers, most of whom are Batswana, charge the gullible travelers a fee for their services,” they said.
“We live in constant fear of these bogus immigration officers, especially because we have no identity cards with which to prove that we are the ideal officers. Our customers also live in constant fear of us, and some of them gullibly fall prey to these mobsters because their papers are not always in order,” said one of the officers.
Apparently, the independent consultants sought greener pastures in the Botswana-Zimbabwe train after the closure of the Francistown Regional Immigration office, at which they were plying their trade by conning foreigners into thinking that they would expedite their applications for work and resident permits.
The Ministry of Labour and Home Affairs has, in the past, cautioned the public about these bogus consultants, saying that all government services are available at the immigration office. But their pleas were futile as it later emerged that the consultants were working in cahoots with immigration officers.
It has emerged that the independent consultants have Government Issue freight stamps which they use to stamp the foreigners passports at a fee. It has also emerged that most of the travelers do not have proper travelling documents such that they opt for engaging the independent consultants instead of seeking help from the genuine immigration officials.
“After all these people use the same stamps. Our Zimbabwean immigration officials hardly ask questions because they understand our plight. I would rather use a fake stamp than risk being deported back to Zimbabwe in one of those filthy trucks,” said a Zimbabwean woman who plies her trade by buying electronic goods from Botswana and selling them in Zimbabwe.
When he stood up to speak, the director of immigration said that they are aware of the situation that prevails at the Zimbabwe-Botswana train.
“We are working around the clock to see how we can resolve the situation,” he said, adding that there are a number of bandits who have established ungazetted entry points along the Zimbabwe-Botswana border.
“These people are making a roaring trade because they run these entry points as a business, charging illegal immigrants who travel from Zimbabwe to Botswana a fee whenever they cross,” he said.
He also revealed that the bandits also waylay thieves as they travel to Zimbabwe with stolen goods from Botswana.
The department of immigration has for a long time been inundated with problems of corruption. The Francistown immigration office stamp went missing last year, sparking a wide sweeping investigation that culminated in the detaining and ultimate dismissal of a number of immigration officers.