By Nqobile Tshili
A BULAWAYO man who masqueraded as an immigration official has been arrested after being found with 107 passports, police have confirmed. Detectives arrested Thulani Humbe, 29, in an early morning raid at a house in Cowdray Park suburb.
National police spokesperson Senior Assistant Commissioner Charity Charamba said Humbe was arrested on Friday following a tip-off from members of the public.
She said he had 106 Zimbabwean passports, and one from Malawi.
“Police acting on a tip proceeded to a certain house in Cowdray Park and conducted a search where they recovered 106 Zimbabwean and one Malawian passport. The suspect was in the habit of date stamping the passports masquerading as a customs official at the Beitbridge Border Post,” said Snr Asst Comm Charity Charamba.
She warned members of the public to avoid engaging in illicit dealings.
“Police are warning members of the public to desist from engaging in illegal activities as the long arm of the law will soon catch up with them,” she said.
“All government business is conducted through appropriate designated offices not at private houses.”
Dealers, mostly cross border transporters, reportedly connive with officials to illegally stamp passports for Zimbabweans in neighbouring countries.
“If someone overstays, they charge between R200 and R600 to get the passport stamped, without the affected person having to travel to the border,” said a police source.
“Some passports can be stamped until they expire without the owner ever having left the neighbouring country.”
The source said a huge number of people have lost their passports to charlatans who take them and charge up to R700 to facilitate travelling for people who do not have passports.
“Others have had fake stamps on their passports, which have led to the government confiscating the documents. Sometimes such travellers are banned from travelling into countries where the stamps are discovered,” said the source.
The source said the practice intensified after the South African government imposed strict conditions on visitors who overstay, which include a ban of up to five years, from entering the country.
In July, police in Bulawayo arrested a conman who allegedly duped scores of residents of thousands of dollars after promising to secure high paying jobs for them with foreign Ngos.
Police recovered 19 passports and two national identity cards from Talent Gavi alias Shaun Musosi following his arrest.
He had promised to get visas and jobs for his victims at Embassies for countries such as Mozambique and Tanzania.
Gavi admitted to the police that the jobs did not exist. The Chronicle