SELEBI-PHIKWE: Police in this former copper-nickel mining town have recently observed a new trend where Palapye is being used by smugglers as a drug distribution centre.
The North Central divisional commander, Christopher Mbulawa said they caught horse-and-trailer trucks that smuggled drugs through the Martin’s Drift Border Post using Palapye, because of its strategic location, as a distribution centre to other areas around the country late last year.
He added that the illegal consignment was found stashed in chicken mash. The matter is already before the courts. He explained that last year some Zimbabweans were also caught with 50kg of dagga in Palapye. One of them Steven Nkomo, 34, was convicted.
They had entered through Martin’s Drift border post. Two other cases before court are the ones in which a 53kg of dagga was confiscated in Palapye from trucks from the same border post. Another involved 80kg bag of dagga.
He explained that they are working around the clock together with other law enforcement agencies and carryout joint operations to control such acts.
He noted that at some point they deployed Botswana Unified Revenue Services sniffer dogs to beef up their security.
He observed that since many travellers prefer to use the Martin’s Drift border post, they have had to increase police visibility there. Mbulawa also acknowledged that the local borders were porous, hence they conducted regular patrols beyond the entry points. He added that they are working with Zimbabwean and South African law enforcement officials to address the situation.
‘We carry out regular operations with other law enforcement counterparts to share intelligence ideas and monitor our preparedness and ensure that we regularly beef up our patrols.
“It is a very busy border with a lot of horse-and-trailer trucks ferrying goods to other countries,” he said.
He added that the use of drugs is a problem in Palapye and said a number of car washes have become a haven for such illegal substances.
He acknowledged that without intensified patrols, some travellers use un-gazetted entry points, which could result in the possibility of worst case scenarios such as human trafficking.He said that though a village, Palapye has the hallmarks of a town and as it grows fast, everyone thinks they can have opportunities there and some resort
The regional police station covers vast areas from Leshibitse to Foley and Makalamabedi, including Tswapong and Bobirwa.
Mbulawa noted that the policing region polices all the biggest dams in the country with Selebi-Phikwe housing the North-South Water Carrier and services mines such as Orapa, Letlhakane, Morupule and even BCL.
It also services game reserves such as part of the Central Kalahari Game Reserve (CKGR) and Khumaga, Tuli Block including borders such as Mabolwe, Zanzibar, Martin’s Drift and the Platjan border post.
It also houses the second university, Botswana International University of Science and Technology and also the longest stretch of the A1 Highway.
With four police districts, 18 police stations and 89 police posts, the regional police station according to Mbulawa polices a diverse community both urban and peri-urban including small villages with varying challenges. He expressed concern that particularly in Palapye, the community has not awoken much to tightening security in homes, hence most homesteads experience break-ins. Such break-ins are not registered because people still believe Palapye is just a village.
He also observed that the closure of BCL Mine has resulted in an upsurge of break-ins, and there was a spate of stealing of equipment like air-conditioners in a lot of unoccupied mine houses and the theft of electric cables, which is common in Mahalapye, Palapye and Serowe.
Mbulawa further said the smuggling of livestock from villages along the border such as Mabolwe to Zimbabwe was a serious concern and compelled them to collaborate with the Department of Veterinary Services and the Botswana Defence Force to ensure continuous patrols with the help of the wildlife department.
“These crimes have now reduced significantly and mobilisation of the community also worked for us,” he added.
He also said that they managed to arrest suspects in a spate of armed robberies that hit Bobirwa last year hence such incidents have now ceased to occur.
He said the suspect, who was arrested in Selebi-Phikwe, had been on the run for many years and he was linked to other such crimes around the country.