Ask bus passengers who travel or have travelled to South Africa and Zimbabwe what problems they face when they travel in Mozambique, they will tell you it is ‘hell’.Immigration officials, police officers and customs officials extort money from passengers either going or coming from South Africa and Zimbabwe at Zobwe, Dezda and Nyamapanda border posts.
When Malawian travellers are going to South Africa or Zimbabwe, Mozambican immigration and security officials check passports whether there is bank stamp showing purchase of foreign exchange. They demand to see the money or foreign exchange slip. Even when they are shown the bank slip or stamp they still demand money. Travellers pay anything between R50 and R100. And they do this for each bus: Inter Cape, Chipoozani, Business Times, Munorurama, Nyali etc. Sometimes travellers are manhandled.
But wait a minute, of what interest is it for Mozambican or Zimbabwean authorities to demand to see how much money Malawians are carrying in their passports as if they are going to Mozambique or Zimbabwe? They are in transit. If anything, it is the South African authorities who should check and demand to see the how much money Malawians are carrying because it is the final destination.
When Malawian passengers are coming from South Africa, Mozambican authoritiestarget Malawians who have overstayed in South Africa and their passport have a Section 50 (Prohibited Immigrant) stamp. Just like the Zimbabwean immigration officials, Mozambicans demand money before they can stamp the passport. Malawians pay anything between R50 and R200 at either border points, depending upon how much bargaining power travellers have. But one has to ask: why should Mozambican or Zimbabwean immigration officials demand money as if Malawians have overstayed in their countries? Even in South Africa overstay is not a big issue. Those who overstay are required to pay a penalty fee of R3000 to re-enter.
For (private)transporters who ferry personal household goods from South Africa, officials look at the type of vehicle one is driving and the load one is carrying. Mozambicans candemand anything between R500 and R700 to open the gate for one to pass.
Malawian authorities at the borders are aware of the malpractices and harassment Malawians face, but they have failed to raise the issues with their Mozambican counterparts even if Malawian travellers have complained of ill-treatment.
In the past, Zambians used to face similar problems when travelling to South Africa. Zimbabwean Immigration officials at Chirundu border used to demand to see how much money Zambians were carrying in their passports and demanded bribes. Zambian travellers complained to their government about the ill-treatment. This prompted the Zambian government to initiate discussions with their Zimbabwean counterparts to solve the issue. Zimbabwean authorities stopped ill–Zambians. They also agreed that bothimmigration and customs officials from both countries to operate under one building on either side of the border. Today, Chirundu is one the best border posts to use: no corruption, no ill-treatment or harassment of travellers.But this was only possible because of intervention from authorities.
Malawians are losing a lot of money to these corrupt and callous Mozambican officials. If truth be told, Mozambican officials at Dedza, Zobwe and Nyamapanda (Chuchamano) borders are the very callous, most brutal and worst corrupt people in the whole SADC region.
Incidentally, the harassment and stealing from Malawian passengers has been going on for many years and has now become worse. Yet many Mozambicans cross the border illegally to seek medical attention in Dedza, Ntheu, Mwanza, Nsanje and Mulanje. But they are not harassed by Malawians. The very brutal officers who extort money from Malawian travellers use the same money to buy groceries in Mwanza or Dedza.
Everyone knows thatit is not the policy of the Mozambican government for immigration and security officers to harass, intimidate, extort ordemand money from travellers at borders. This is the work of a few misguided and corrupt individuals who abuse their authority. This is why senior Malawi government officials should now step in. They should not pay a blind eye to the pain and suffering of Malawian passengers at the hands of a few greed Mozambican officials.
It is time high time the government did something about it. Minister of Foreign Affairs Francis Katsaila and Home Affairs and Internal Security Minister Grace Chiumia should pluck some courage and hold talks with their Mozambican counterparts to end this institutionalised harassment and exploitation of innocent Malawians. They should demand commitment that the Mozambican immigration and security officials will stop harassing, extorting money and intimidating Malawians at the borders or when they pass through Mozambique.
The outrageous behaviour of these Mozambican officials is not only against the spirit of good neighbourliness and internationally accepted human rights standards, but pure barbarism. It has to be stopped once and for all. It is sickening!