The Botswana army has adopted a shoot-to-kill policy against suspected Zimbabwe smugglers -sometimes referred to as border-jumpers, seven of whom were shot dead recently, according to reports.
The Zimbabweans are accused of smuggling goods and marijuana into Botswana and stealing from shops there.
Zimbabweans, particularly those who live along the border and have relatives on the other side, always use traditional routes to cross into Botswana on shopping trips or to visit their relatives.
But of late, professional smugglers trying to evade the authorities, have resorted to using these locals to smuggle goods for them paying them high fees by rural standards.
In most cases, the locals do not even know what they are smuggling and for whom they are doing it. When they are caught they have to face the wrath of the law as the principal culprits rather than just as couriers.
With the drought crippling the economy and jobs hard to come by, more and more people have resorted to border-jumping to look for jobs in neighbouring Botswana. But they have also been joined by thieves who simply cross to break into shops and then cross back to sell their loot.
At the beginning of the year between 500 and 900 Zimbabweans were being arrested each month for border-jumping along the Botswana border. Life in Zimbabwe has not been treating the poor and lowly paid kindly either. Latest figures indicate that the price of foodstuffs for the lower income group has increased by 64.5 percent in the past year. The general cost of living increased by 43.6 percent.
On the other hand salaries and wages have remained largely unchanged and this has distorted the spending patterns with people spending more money on food than other items. Present signs indicate that a full year might be needed for the recovery of rural and urban incomes and a return to former spending patterns.
Even with the present hardships, both employers’ and workers’ representatives are seeking modest wage and salary increases of just between 5 and 15 percent which is less than half the inflation rate.
They have reached this compromise rather than risk retrenchment. However, although employers may be trying hard to avoid retrenchment tougher times are likely to prevail.
There are fears that there may be more job losses in the mining industry and the food processing industry.