Smugglers, drug peddlers, illegal miners among 1,400 nabbed at Beitbridge border in two weeks

31 March 2021 - 07:00
By Lenin Ndebele
Loaded trucks queue on both the Zimbabwe and SA side of the Beitbridge border post. Police on both sides have arrested 1,400 people in the past two weeks..
Image: KATHERINE MUICK/SUNDAY TIMES Loaded trucks queue on both the Zimbabwe and SA side of the Beitbridge border post. Police on both sides have arrested 1,400 people in the past two weeks..

In the past two weeks at least 1,400 alleged criminals have been arrested in a joint operation between SA police and their Zimbabwean counterparts along the Beitbridge border.

The arrested were mainly drug peddlers, smugglers, border jumpers, armed robbers, traffic offenders, illegal miners, wanted people and carjackers.

The “Thatha Konke” (take everything) operation involved increased surveillance at the border. Apart from the arrests, nearly two dozen buses have been impounded.

The biggest single haul was the interception of a truck travelling from Johannesburg to Lilongwe, in Malawi, carrying 10 motorbikes worth R500,000 that were suspected to have been stolen. In the same truck there was a consignment of drugs, but their type and value were not specified.

According to Limpopo SAPS spokesperson Col Moatshe Ngoepe, his teams were still on high alert for criminal activities as the Easter holiday approached.

“The police officers operating at the Beitbridge border post are still on high alert to curb cross-border crimes. This is after a truck allegedly travelling from Gauteng to Malawi was caught loaded with 10 dismantled suspected stolen motorbikes valued at more than R500,000.

“Two suspects aged 32 and 36 were arrested on the spot and the truck was seized,” he said.

The police have so far arrested 1,473 people during the operation. They say they seized 1kg of cocaine, seven stolen vehicles, nine illegal firearms and ammunition, and 6,894 sticks of counterfeit cigarettes.  

On Sunday, two daring men robbed and shot a truck driver who was in the queue waiting to be served by customs officials

SAPS spokesperson Brig Motlafela Mojapelo has appealed to the public for information about the robbery.

The suspects took an undisclosed amount of money as well as a cellphone along the N1 road next to the weighbridge.

“Two unknown suspects, one armed with a firearm, allegedly arrived at the truck and demanded money from the driver,” he said.

Zimbabwean police noted that since the border between the two countries was closed for ordinary travel, it had become mostly concentrated on commercial activities — which has also led to an increase in smuggling.

“We discovered that after using illegal crossing points, smugglers board intercity buses in Beitbridge heading to various towns in the country. Such actions are losing the state a lot of potential revenue,” national police spokesperson, Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi, told journalists.

He added that smuggled goods comprise groceries and electrical appliances while those leaving Zimbabwe are mostly contraband cigarettes.