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MATSAMO – Criminals are now said to be walking in and out of Eswatini from South Africa, right under the noses of soldiers meant to prevent this.

At least 500 emaSwati and South Africans allegedly walk in and out of the country through an illegal opening next to the Matsamo Border Gate daily. The illegal crossing is not to be confused with informal crossings normally manned by soldiers. Army-manned informal crossings are also not supposed to be right next to the border. The illegal crossing operates side-by-side with the Matsamo Border Gate. Residents around Matsamo are now furious that criminals are entering the country, despite the presence of soldiers. They are also accusing the soldiers of being the ones controlling the flow of people who cross into the country illegally.


Residents alleged that the informal crossing was being used to enter or leave the country with contraband and criminals were allegedly paying to cross or enter the country. They alleged that on the Eswatini side of the illegal crossing, the soldiers allegedly charged E10 while on the South African side, they charged E20. *Dumo, who is one of the unhappy residents, said people even crossed with stolen goats. He said goat meat was in high demand in South Africa.  Under normal circumstances, one cannot cross the border with livestock such as goats without a permit. Dumo said this was now happening at the illegal crossing in the presence of the soldiers. He lamented that criminals were entering the country and then committing crimes. He said in the past seven days, at least three robberies were said to have been committed near the border. “They are now fearless,” he said.

Dumo alleged that the criminals also entered the country and stole from homesteads near the border. He alleged that many residents had reported their household items as missing, such as television sets. He alleged that once the items were stolen, the criminals then crossed with them into SA. Yesterday, an investigation carried out by this publication uncovered how emaSwati and South Africans were entering the country with ease through the illegal crossing. Some of the people said they used the illegal crossing because they were avoiding testing for COVID-19, which came at a cost of about E500.

A woman who was found crossing also said she used the crossing regularly because it was cheaper for her. She said she normally entered SA to buy some items. The residents of Matsamo now want the Umbutfo Eswatini Defence Force (UEDF) to close the illegal crossing. They said they had been to Nsingizini Barracks on several occasions to report the matter but they were not assisted. They also revealed that even yesterday, they had gone to the informal crossing where they approached the commanding officer there. “We were not assisted,” said the resident.

Dumo said the residents even resorted to phoning the army head office at Nokwane but they could not get through to anyone there. He warned that the people were angry and that the UEDF should act quickly.  He also revealed that the residents recently attacked a man who had used the illegal crossing after he was suspected of committing a string of burglaries. This is said to have happened about two weeks ago. Communications Officer in the Ministry of Home Affairs Mlandvo Dlamini could not be reached for comment as his phone rang unanswered.
Deputy Police Information and Communications Officer Inspector Nosipho Mnguni said the army would be more appropriate to respond.


The residents said their main worry was that it was now easy to smuggle a firearm into the country from SA. *Moses, who is a South African, said people from his country entered to buy fuel because it was cheaper. He said they bought it at a local filling station and then crossed with it. He said despite the presence of soldiers, border jumpers moved freely. He said this was because soldiers benefitted by charging at least E10 per person. Moses said depending on what you were transporting, they were able to charge between E10 to E500. He further revealed that he knew people who crossed with a firearm after paying just E10. It was also gathered that guns were also being smuggled into the country alongside dagga. The residents said soldiers did not search the bags of people who crossed through the illegal crossing but that instead, they allowed them to enter as long as they paid.

The residents blamed the recent robberies near Pigg’s Peak and Matsamo on the easy smuggling of guns into the country. *Thulani, who is also one of the residents said the number of criminals using guns in northern Hhohho had increased because they were easily accessible through the illegal crossing, in the presence of soldiers.  “We are no longer safe,” he said.
He said gun-carrying criminals were now targeting shops, mainly those owned by businesspeople of Asian origin, because they were known to keep a lot of cash. This publication had also reported about a shop operated by an Asian that was targeted by criminals.

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