By Liz Dlodlo
The South African Police Services (SAPS) has arrested over 5000 smugglers and border jumpers along the border with its northern neighbour, Zimbabwe.
The police say they are conducting joint clean-up operations with other security stakeholders to enforce the lockdown regulations and control the spread of coronavirus (Covid-19) along the border with Zimbabwe.
Already Covid-19 infections are increasing at the Beitbridge Border where more than 16 customs officials from both countries have tested positive forcing the border to provisionally close twice under three weeks
SAPS says, 5499 people including locals and migrants from Sadc among them Zimbabweans were arrested around Limpopo Province in July alone.
The organisation’s spokesperson for Limpopo Province, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said in a media statement on Wednesday that the operations were reportedly conducted in all five policing districts through roadblocks, tracing of wanted suspects, Covid-19 compliance monitoring visits at shopping malls, as well as stop and searches.
The smuggling of people and goods is reported to have increased along the border since the beginning of the lockdowns in South Africa and Zimbabwe in March.
Brigadier Mojapelo said more than R14 million worth of items such as vehicles (including huge trucks), firearms and ammunition, drugs, illicit cigarettes, chrome, dagga, mining machinery, equipment, cellphones and liquor were confiscated.
Live pangolins, goats and a leopard skin were also seized during the crack down.
“The suspects were arrested during the ongoing joint and simultaneous operations that were conducted from 1 July 2020 until Sunday, 1 August 2020.
“The operatives involved included the SAPS members derived from various operational Units, members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the Provincial and Municipal Traffic Police, SARS and Customs officials,” said Brigadier Mojapelo.
He said the suspects were arrested for crimes ranging from rape, sexual assaults, violation of a protection order, murder, smuggling of illicit cigarettes, possession of counterfeit properties, possession of suspected stolen properties, poaching, possession of dagga and dealing in drugs.
Others were picked up for in illegal possession of endangered and protected species such as pangolins, carjacking, theft from motor vehicles, house robberies, stock theft, armed robberies, and burglaries, and assault.
Brigadier Mojapelo said they had also rounded up people for possession of unlicensed firearms and ammunition, illegal immigration to illegal mining as well as the contravention of the regulations under the Disaster Management Act.