Security operation starts in Francistown
3/28/2006 5:18:49 PM (GMT +2)
FRANCISTOWN: The police, military and other stakeholders started a three-day clean up campaign yesterday targeting illegal immigrants, stolen vehicles and general crime. "We are targeting a lot of things; illegal immigrants, illegal employment of non-citizens, check all foreign registered motor vehicles that have overstayed without local registration, people trading without licences and those found in unlawful possession of fire arms," said Foreman Baganetswe, the police commander coordinating the operation.
He pointed out that the stakeholders involved in the exercise include the Local Police, departments of Immigration, Customs and Excise, Labour, Wildlife and Bye-Law officers. In the early hours of the operation yesterday, about 153 illegal immigrants were being held at the Central police station and 159 at Kutlwano police station. Tatitown police had about 116 adults and three children, held as illegals. "We expect this operation to succeed in the true sense of the word. We are still compiling our figures and it will take sometime before our job is completed," said Baganetswe. He described the operation as massive. He said they are preparing to dispatch teams into the bushes to raid people who hide there. The operation brought traffic to a complete halt in the busy roads because of the many roadblocks. Serious looking military men led the search and identification and nobody was spared. Although the officers were very fast in the execution of their duties, they could not handle the volume of traffic and caused a major snarl up on the roads. Impatient motorists and commuters condemned the mounting of roadblocks on major roads on a Monday. "Why do they have to mount their roadblocks on a Monday, don't they think that we will be delayed at our workplaces," fumed a woman dressed in a Barclays Bank uniform. She was supported by passengers in a Combi in front of her. This did not deter the military men. "Next!" shouted an officer, calling for another vehicle to move forward to the search point. The heavy presence of armed police and soldiers at strategic points like bridges was intimidating as people are not used to this state of affairs. The taxi industry was affected by the operation, because many illegal immigrants are employed as drivers. They disappeared when they got wind of the operation and when approaching roadblocks. Taxis could be spotted on the sides of the road abandoned by the drivers. Baganetswe explained that besides roadblocks, they have launched foot patrols in all the streets and they are visiting residential houses and work places. They search motor vehicles especially buses. "We are also patrolling the Botswana-Zimbabwe border with a view to arresting border jumpers and all those that are involved in cross-border crime," he said. Although the operation started yesterday at around 4am, the targeted groups like illegal immigrants were already aware of what is coming in advance. "As the law enforcement agencies, we differ in the way we handle crucial information. There is that likelihood that some of the stakeholders could have leaked the information to the targeted group," Baganetswe said. Francistown has been reeling from an influx of illegal immigrants especially from Zimbabwe. Last year, the two Francistown police districts netted about 28,120 illegal aliens from Zimbabwe alone. The police and other stakeholders appreciate the plight of Zimbabweans, but they are worried by the fact that a majority of them resort to crime if they do not get jobs.