Beitbridge Border Post security personnel last night intercepted a South Africa- registered bus carrying 51 Zimbabweans who were being transported to the neighbouring country illegally.
The group is part of 124 people who had just been deported from South Africa for violating that country’s immigration laws.
Four crew members were arrested at around 7pm for trying to facilitate the illegal immigration of the Zimbabweans and are being held by Beitbridge police.
It is alleged that after getting to Beitbridge, the group negotiated with the bus crew led by a South African driver, to take them back for a cumulative R13 000.
The Herald understands that after paying the money, the passengers did not disembark from the bus for Covid-19 screening at the National Social Security Authority (NSSA) hotel.
The place is being used by the Government as quarantine, isolation and transit centre for Zimbabweans returning from Eswatini, Lesotho and South Africa. Under the set-up, all those returning to the country voluntarily or on a Government assisted facility are subject to undergo mandatory screening.
Police officer commanding Beitbridge District, Chief Superintendent Tichaona Nyongo said further investigations were in progress.
“We have four suspects in custody who are assisting us with investigations, but I cannot give you further details at this stage,” he said.
However, sources said the would-be illegal immigrants to South Africa were found hiding under the bus seats to avoid detection.
“A team led by Major George Mvura from the army was patrolling the area when they stopped two buses which had just dropped deportees from Lindela in Johannesburg, at the NSSA hotel.
“They then conducted a physical search of the two buses as per standard procedure leading to the discovery of 51 people hiding under the seats,” said the official.
The sources said after interrogations, the passengers confessed that they had paid R13 000 to bus crew for transportation back to Johannesburg.
The gang was then accompanied back to the NSSA Hotel for screening and further management.
Security details had last night heightened surveillance around the area and the bus had been impounded pending further investigations.
Incidents of South African officials smuggling contraband and Zimbabwean passengers who would have been deported from the neighbouring country are common at Beitbridge.