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When truck drivers are an essential 'nuisance'

LEBOGANG MOSIKARE
Police manning a COVID-19 roadblock in Francistown PIC: PHATSIMO KAPENG
There is no denying that truck drivers-local and foreign-had and still continue to play a vital role in the transportation of goods and other essentials within and outside the country’s borders. The truck drivers even risked their lives by ferrying goods following the outbreak of coronavirus. Despite their stellar and risky jobs, some of them had a blot. Mmegi staffer, LEBOGANG MOSIKARE reports

FRANCISTOWN: When coronavirus reared its ugly head in the country, authorities closed liquor outlets as one of the ways to stymie its spread.

By hook or crook, some retailers of alcohol however, still managed to sell liquor that was left in their stores.

The liquor was sold at exorbitant prices because it became a rare commodity after it was prohibited. As days passed and as alcohol became scarcer, its prices also got steeper.

This led some people to resort to making homemade brews, which are dangerous to health.

During that time, police worked overtime to arrest people who had resorted to making homemade brews, which were also outlawed but were in abundance during the lockdown in the informal market.

Those who were caught drinking homemade liquor throughout the country almost became a daily sight in Botswana Television.

In the midst of all this, an underground market of liquor from outside the country was gaining a foothold in the country.

Although the police were arresting dozens of people for selling foreign alcohol brands in Botswana when alcohol volumes in the country were almost depleted, they may be forgiven for not thoroughly keeping their eyes on the ball because the system that was used by smugglers to bring it into the country was very sophisticated.

This is so because the people who smuggled liquor into Botswana were not only the usual culprits-alcohol smugglers who jump the border.

Not only was alcohol trafficked into the country. The smugglers also used an intensive network to bring cigarettes into the country despite the ban after the enactment of lockdown rules.

This publication has been reliably informed that even some police officers were involved in the smuggling of alcohol and cigarettes into the country.

Even though police bosses in the city deny it, this publication has been informed that a junior

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police officer is currently on suspension after he was recently caught with some alcoholic beverages from Zimbabwe along the Francistown-Ramokgwebana road whilst he was returning to the city during the lockdown.

Police sources said that he used his job to smuggle alcohol into Botswana in conjunction with some Zimbabweans but his luck later ran out.

To cut a long story short, truck drivers were responsible for smuggling alcohol and cigarettes into the country while they were assigned to ferry essential consignments inside the country or while in en route to South African ports.

Officer Commanding No. 15 District Kabo Badirwang said that although the police in his district have never arrested a truck driver for selling alcohol and cigarettes during the lockdown, their investigations showed that some of the liquor and cigarettes were sourced from truck drivers.

“We don’t have cases of truck drivers who were arrested in Francistown but our investigations showed that most of the alcohol and cigarettes were sourced from truck drivers. It was difficult to pursue the matters further because the truck drivers had already returned to their countries of origin,” said Badirwang.

Badirwang said that some of the illicit liquor and cigarettes traders were nabbed after this publication wrote an exposé the lockdown showing that while the sales of the products were prohibited, there was a thriving black market for the products that was fuelled by truck drivers.

The officer commanding No. 6 police district (Kasane) Thari Senwelo expressed Badirwang’s sentiments.

Senwelo, whose policing area include villages near the Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia borders, said that they have not arrested any truck driver smuggling liquor or cigarettes in his area.

However, Senwelo said that he is privy to information that some of the foreign truck drivers were caught in Francistown with smuggled alcohol and cigarettes.



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