Sarah Ngewerume was driven to the river by despair.
She said she had seen gangs loyal to Zimbabwe's longtime president, Robert Mugabe, beating people -- some to death -- in the dusty roads of her village. She said Mugabe loyalists were sweeping the countryside with chunks of wood in their hands, demanding to see party identification cards and methodically hunting down opposition supporters.
"It was terrifying," said Ms. Ngewerume, a 49-year-old former shopkeeper.
Last week she waded across the Limpopo River, bribed a man fixing a border fence on the other side and slipped into a nearby South African farm.
She was among the latest desperate arrivals in what South Africa's biggest daily newspaper is calling "Mugabe's Tsunami," a wave of more than 1,000 people every day who are fleeing Zimbabwe across the Limpopo to escape into South Africa.