An ordeal at the hands of men and women who have gotten the feared name Maguma-guma.They are used by the courier for their cheaper services. Going through the formal crossing point is costly. The transporter cannot lose money on a package. It has to be minimal cost. #The days of an economic migrant….
P.C: Enlighten me on the whole process of being transported into South Africa?
E.N: The trip to the border is organised from the locations in Bulawayo, Gweru, Harare and most recently Chipinge. The townships have men and women who are part of the syndicate; they will link you the transporter. All you need is a valid phone number for your relative in South Africa or a sum of R1500 to R2500. A date is then set for your departure.Well in my case I had a brother who had spoken to them and would pay them R1200 once I was safely in South Africa.
P.C: Did you have a passport?
E.N: Oh yes I had a passport but my passport had overstayed while I was working in South Africa the previous year I was there in 2005. I overstayed with a year and was banned entry for 5years. I could not risk passing through the border with no connection.
This was my only available option, the use the Courier (Malaitsha).
P.C: Had you ever been a border jumper before?
E.N: No. This was going to be my first time. You see the whole process is a myth till that day you go via this route.
My pickup was from Bulawayo since I was coming from Gweru. I left home so early in the morning with a small case with all my personal belongings. I had carried my certificates and a few clothes just to get by until I got my first wages.
I called the guy who would travel with me as soon as my bus arrived in Bulawayo. He told me to wait for him at the Garage along the Bulawayo-Masvingo Road; they would call me when they were in town. I was excited that finally I would start working again and help my siblings as i had done before.
Time flew past and later in the day around three o’clock my phone call came and I was going to be picked up in five minutes. The feeling was just divine knowing that I was going to revive my dreams .
P.C: When your pickup came who else was in this vehicle? Was it a formal or casual group?
E.N: I was picked up around 5pm and the vehicle was already full. There was almost all kinds of people in the vehicle which was a Toyota Quantum. I noticed there were two children who were still on the lap of their mothers. The driver sped off and we started off the journey.
P.C: What time did you get to the border and how was the crossover to the land of Gold?
E.N: As we drew closer to the border. The driver and his crew started making phone calls as if to arrange our safe passage through the border. Just as we got into Beitbridge, we pulled over at a fuel station and we went right at the back where it was dark and the lighting was so poor. There was a Mazda truck with a canopy that was waiting for us. It was being driven by a man they called Mupostori .
Everyone except for the two mothers who had children on their laps was forced out quickly into the van without being allowed to ask where we were being taken to. This was a very quick changeover and we were on our way in less than five minutes. The driver drove towards the South West of the Border town until we could see mud huts. The boys travelling with us confirmed what everyone had feared the most. They had come this way before they knew we had one option into the Limpopo River, then if you make it another journey starts in the wild..
P.C: Would you narrate to me the ordeal?
E.N: The horror had already begun. We passed through a military check point and there were two soldiers. They spoke to the driver and an exchange of money solved his crisis.
I was so terrified and had hoped there was another way besides the river. I could not swim. Everyone besides me looked like they had accepted our fate. This was high water season right in the middle of March and I had the worst encounters back at home during this time.
We came to a point where the driver just stopped and some young men came out of the nearby bush and we were force marched out of the vehicle and handed over to these touts. Another exchange of money occurred. And the driver was on his way. I must say that this is a well coordinated syndicate. No one asks questions and people comply, you ride or you die.
These boys are the Maguma-gumas you cannot have any valuable as you meet them they take everything they want because they can and you are literally their prisoner. I had certificates, a couple of hard earned dollars and beauty they wanted it all.
P.C: So you were mugged and raped?
E.N: Yes they took everything we had. I would say the violence involved is the worst I have seen all my life. One boy who had tried to resist got so beat up that we left him still lying in the bush when we headed for the river. They will be armed with machetes, axes, knives and guns.
I was called by the head tout and said I will cross with you in my group. I could see that this would turn into a nightmare. What could I do it was in the middle of the night and no one could come assist me. I had to be strong. We sat around a fire until the moon shone high up above around 01:00 am.
We were going to cross in two groups. We were given instruction on how we would navigate the huge currents of Limpopo. We would have to follow our leader and at the centre would be another Maguma as well as at the end. A rope would be your leaning help as we crossed. It’s all easier said than in action. It’s a horrible experience. My case was another burden I had I had to either choose to cling to it or let it go and survive.
The first group had two ladies .They went first and the ladies there all stripped to their underwear. I started panting and as far as I can tell you I really soiled myself. The water level was almost up their shoulders. It was muddy water you could not see what is in it. As they were half way through we all heard a scream and it was one of the boys who had been washed away by the current. This happens in a split second and everyone has to remain composed and still carry on like nothing happened. I’m sure every one of the Magumas is used to this they don’t care. We were asking each other who it was and our leader said that it was his fault. He said the instructions were clear and if anyone was to blame it could only be himself.
He was gone. No next of kin would know exactly how it happened and why. No decent burial of his remains. Limpopo is home to the vicious crocodiles and hippos. There was no chance of ever hoping for a better way to send off a son, a man who has taken courage to feed his family in this tough economic hardship. I am a mother and I felt horrible and so bad that we did not even try to help or search for him. It was such a selfish way to part.
My group was next. I was right behind our leader. I held so tight to that rope, it was all I could think about. It was so cold in that water, my certificates all got wet and all I had was a rope to hold on to. I was determined to make it to the other end. Just as we were almost out of the water one of the guys at the back got stuck on a root or rock the whole group stopped and the current was so heavy. We were swayed once, twice and the third time we were covered in a splash of more water. They cut that man loose and I was busy gasping for an ounce of oxygen I thought this was my end. All I remember was all the guys fighting to pull me out to the surface after a huge struggle with me. I had been obedient i never let go of the rope as they said it. Cruel world it is.
Finally we were on the South African side. We were so cold yet we could not make a fire as this would alert the authorities and another surprise was we were in the middle of a game reserve.
We had no time to waste. We were supposed to move before sunrise and meet our vehicle that took us from Bulawayo…
The journey has begun……