Police crackdown on border smugglers

The gadgets that were destroyed during last week’s joint operation were built in the vicinity of Zimbabwe’s 24-hour security checkpoints.

ZIMBABWEAN and South African police have destroyed apparatuses found on the Limpopo River  that are used for smuggling and human trafficking between the two countries.

The gadgets that were destroyed during last week’s joint operation were built in the vicinity of Zimbabwe’s 24-hour security checkpoints.

The apparatuses included a hand-made wooden bridge across the wide Limpopo River and two rafts paddled through the same river, the physical boundary between Zimbabwe and South Africa.

Police spokesman senior assistant commissioner Paul Nyathi confirmed the developments, saying 18 people were also arrested during the operation. 

“Those arrested were illegally in the protected areas without valid reasons,” Nyathi told The Standard.

“I also confirm the destruction of a wooden bridge and home-made rafts that were used for smuggling and ferrying people from both countries.”

Adventurous and desperate Zimbabweans have been using different ways to avoid the official border post to evade paying duty or cross into the neighbouring illegally to search for a better life, in the process risking being attacked by hippos and crocodiles in the river.

Although Nyathi did not comment, it is known in Beitbridge circles that security agents will be present when these structures are being built. 

“Some unscrupulous officials actually demand payment from operators of these apparatuses and in particular the rafts docking and operating near the Zimbabwe National Parks and Wildlife Management Authority camp on the banks of the Limpopo River,” a source said.

“The place is a security checkpoint where uniformed personnel are always present.”

In a related case, a South African policeman based at the Beitbridge Border Post has been jailed four years after he was caught with smuggled Zimbabwe cigarettes worth R350 000. 

Sergeant Hezekiel Mailula Maimela (45) was given an option to pay a R200 000 fine.

His Toyota Hilux vehicle that was used to commit the crime was forfeited  to the State. 

According to a press statement from the South African Police Service (SAPS) Limpopo Province, a Specialised Commercial Crime Court in Polokwane convicted and sentenced Maimela on Tuesday, 27 February 2024. 

“The court noted that on Thursday 30, June 2022 the accused, wearing a police uniform, driving his own Toyota Hilux bakkie blue in colour, was stopped by Limpopo Flying Squad while patrolling,” said the statement signed by Limpopo SAPS spokesman Colonel Malesela Ledwaba. 

“The police requested to search the vehicle, and found illicit cigarettes worth R350 000.”

Related Topics

Teacher unions adding salt to wound
By The Independent Aug. 26, 2022
Feature: Another strike looms
By The Independent Aug. 26, 2022
AfDB pledges to improve Zimbabwe infrastructure
By The Independent Aug. 26, 2022