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The Most Treacherous Part of the Journey for Zimbabweans Seeking a Better Life in South Africa

The Limpopo River has flooded after weeks of incessant rain, resulting in three drownings of “border jumpers” last month alone. A few kilometres away, where the roar of the river can still be heard, men and women clutching small bags of belongings trudge along a different dusty track near Malindi Transit Shed. At 9am on a Friday morning in February, the route to the bridge connecting South Africa and Zimbabwe is already heavily patrolled by soldiers clasping rifles. The journey to Beitbridge on the Zimbabwean side is punctuated by five security checkpoints, with a bribe of $3 required by the soldiers and police at each stop. The path continues to the old Alfred Beit Bridge, where the road crosses the Limpopo between Musina in South Africa and Beitbridge in Zimbabwe. Here, border-jumping guides, known as magumaguma, are ready to assist in illegal crossings. It is a steady stream, as Zimbabweans fleeing economic turmoil seek opportunities in South Africa, a more stable economy. Rising inflation, unemployment and poverty drives most Zimbabweans to make the journey. Those who can afford the bribes take the bridge. Others try their luck in the fast-flowing waters, where crocodiles swim.