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Smuggling: Police want greater role in controlling airports

The police want a greater role and unhindered access at airports to help prevent criminals smuggling out gold and other minerals in their luggage as many now enforcing smuggling rules are not trained or experienced in general law enforcement.

Commissioner General Godwin Matanga yesterday told a joint sitting of the parliamentary portfolio committees on Mines and Mining Development and of Home Affairs, Defence and Security Services that there was need for close collaboration with all law enforcement agencies at ports of entry such as Robert Gabriel Mugabe International Airport where there has been smuggling  of gold.

The police at present played a peripheral role at international airports as other arms of Government such as the Civil Aviation Authority of Zimbabwe were deployed at every spot while the police had a limited number of places to monitor.

The committees wanted to know what the police were doing to curb mineral smuggling in the wake of incidents of people found with minerals such as gold at ports of entry such as RGM International Airport.

It is unfortunate that at our airport, CAAZ are the people who provide security. There are some parts of the airport where ZRP officers are not allowed, said Comm Gen Matanga.

While the International Air Transport Association forbids the police to access certain places at airports, most countries were using police far more readily than Zimbabwe at airports, he had noticed while travelling.

“IATA forbids police from patrolling certain areas but surprisingly it is only applying to Zimbabwe. I have travelled in many countries and I have seen the police patrolling in all areas. It is an observation I have made,” said Comm  Gen Matanga.

Secretary for Home Affairs and Cultural Heritage, Mr Aaron Nhepera weighed in saying he was liaising with his counterpart in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructural Development on how there can be close collaboration between police and CAAZ officials.

“The Comm Gen has written to me on the need to deploy police officers close to areas where activities take place. Currently police officers are deployed far away from where activities take place,” said Mr Nhepera.

Commenting on the recent incident where Tashinga Masinire evaded detection at RGM International Airport only to be arrested allegedly with 14kg of gold at OR Tambo International Airport in Johannesburg, Comm Gen said it appeared that an off-duty Central Intelligence Officer carried the contraband to the departure area using the arrival                                                                   section.

The two then met in a smoking room where the CIO operative handed over the gold to the courier.

The Comm Gen said there were highly sophisticated cartels involved in smuggling of minerals and law enforcement agencies needed to be well resourced to catch up with them. 

Comm Gen Matanga decried lack of equipment such as scanners, drones and high-powered vehicles for police to effectively discharge their duties.

He then asked to continue explaining in detail about the cartels in camera, a request that was granted. 

Acting Chief Director for Immigration Mr Givemore Charamba said his department was working on an integrated security system that included all security agencies, and that would allow the police to profile criminals.

“We are not adequately computerised to capture biometric data. I am glad that at the Department of Immigration, we are in the process of acquiring robust integrated security system which will be linked to other Government departments such as the police and other stakeholders,” said Mr Charamba. Herald

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