Smuggling explosives between Zimbabwe and SA, a regional security problem

Three people have been arrested after they were allegedly caught in possession of a large quantity of explosives while entering South Africa at the Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe in Limpopo. Photo: SAPS

EXPLOSIVES smuggling into South Africa from Zimbabwe has become a huge security issue between the two countries, including some countries in the SADC region, Zim Morning Post can reveal.

Immigration authorities from both sides of the Beitbridge Border Post, in cahoots with local syndicates, have allegedly created smuggling pathways for explosives into   South Africa from Zimbabwe, where there is a ready market for the contraband.

An expert in the explosives Industry, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said Zimbabwe was the largest supplier of illicit explosives to South Africa.

“Explosives are being smuggled from across Zimbabwe into South Africa from mostly the construction industry and mining sector.

“Once in South Africa, the explosives are used by those involved in illegal mining,” the Zim Morning Post source said.

According to the source, explosives are also needed by those operating organised criminal jaunts that involve detonating armoured transport vehicles responsible for moving huge amounts of money.

“Explosives also come in handy in criminal works involving the bombing of Automated Teller Machines,” said our source.

Recently, there has been a surge in reports of large amounts of smuggled explosives originating from Zimbabwe.

Sometimes, these have been intercepted by alert authorities at the Beitbridge Border Post.

According to investigations by this publication, the explosives being smuggled into South Africa are sourced from black markets inside Zimbabwe.

It is understood that these explosives are procured by networks engaged in criminal activities who, in turn, smuggle them into South Africa.

Meanwhile, the use of explosives in South Africa is regulated by several laws, among them the Explosives Act 15 of 2003, the Mine Health and Safety Act of 1996 and the Occupational Health and Safety Act of 1993, among others.

As per our source, enforcing these pieces of legislation, which has been difficult anywhere, rests with the Department of Mineral Resources, South African Police Service and Department of Labour.

The Zim Morning Post source said it was not easy to control the flow of explosives into South Africa.

“In order to contain the illicit trade in explosives, though, conceited efforts have to be made among various government departments tasked with border control such as customs and police, including the rooting out of corruption in border management,” our source added.

Including that, there has also to be an awareness raised among law enforcement officials around the threat that explosives present to national security.

It was also said the lack of harmonisation of explosives legislation and regulations in the Sadc region also constitutes a problem.

Sadc currently has a protocol on the control of firearms, ammunition and other related materials.

The protocol, however, has gaps in relation to what it says about the production, storage, transportation and use of explosives.

A regional protocol or strategy, such as the European Union Directive 2014/28/EU, would help mitigate the threat of explosives smuggling in the region.

A regional strategy or protocol would enable a single Sadc market to be created for the legal trade in commercial explosives, so that safety requirements are consistent across countries.

It would also streamline administration by establishing a single system to supervise the transfer of explosives and ammunition across the region. – Zim Morning Post