Elite SA cops focus on Beitbridge as car smuggling into Zimbabwe spikes

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SOUTH Africa’s elite Hawks police unit has is increasing its focus on Beit Bridge border post in Musina where luxury vehicles stolen from other provinces were recovered during the festive season.

Speaking to News24 on Friday, Limpopo provincial Hawks spokesperson Captain Matimba Maluleke said the elite unit was concerned that some officials may be working with cross-border car smuggling syndicates.

This comes after yet another syndicate was smashed in Madimbo village outside Musina. A suspect, aged 29, was arrested and a Toyota Fortuner was recovered. The suspect appeared in the Musina Magistrate’s Court and was kept in custody.

He was due to appear again this Monday, December 31.

“The vehicle was reported stolen in Yeoville (Johannesburg). It was driven at night and we were able to follow it up to Madimbo at 03:00,” Maluleke said.

He said cross-border car smuggling has been a concern to the Hawks, especially this festive season.

A continuous challenge

The festive season saw an increase in the number of stolen vehicles and other goods from other provinces that were intercepted in Limpopo en route to Zimbabwe.

“This has been a challenge. It’s obvious there are some corrupt officials working with these cross-border car smuggling syndicates,” Maluleke said.

Another concern was that members of the syndicates were able to go through roadblocks undetected by traffic and police officers.

“They use fake licence discs. At the roadblocks, you only check if the licence disc corresponds with the number plates.

“Therefore, it needs intelligence and specialised units who can tell if the engine number and other aspects have been tampered with. Even the Hawks themselves alone cannot always detect stolen vehicles,” he said.

“It needs a serious roadblock where other units such as the VIS (vehicle identification safeguarding) are involved to counter these syndicates.”

Some of the tactics the syndicates use include transporting stolen vehicles in closed trucks, and donkeys to take the vehicles across the Limpopo River into Zimbabwe.