R1 million or SA jail: Zimbabwean illicit cigarettes trader must pay hefty fine to avoid five years in Limpopo jail

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By Jonisayi Maromo I IOL News

PRETORIA: The Giyani Specialised Commercial Crimes Court has convicted and sentenced Zimbabwean national, 27-year-old Phathisani Khumalo to five years imprisonment or a fine of R1m (US$55,000) for possession of illicit cigarettes.

Limpopo spokesperson for the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi said Khumalo was found with illicit cigarettes valued over R2m.

In that same case, another Zimbabwean national, Victor Sithole, 24, was sentenced to two years imprisonment or a fine of R5 000, for illegal immigration.

“On 30 September 2022, the police of the Limpopo flying squad unit found an Isuzu truck along the N1 road, which was offloading illicit cigarettes to another small vehicle. They searched the truck and found 141 master boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes covered with Lucerne grass,” said Malabi-Dzhangi.

Khumalo was the driver of the truck and Sithole was a passenger.

“Khumalo took the responsibility for the cigarettes and declared Sithole innocent.

“In mitigation of the sentence, the defence lawyer submitted that the accused person (Khumalo) is a first-time time offender, pleaded guilty as a sign of remorse, and they have been in custody since September 2022,” Malabi-Dzhangi said.

The defence team also told the court that Khumalo is a married man, with three children. The court heard that he is the breadwinner of the family, and could only afford a fine of R100 000.

On the other hand, the court also heard that Sithole is not married but has two minor children.

Malabi-Dzhangi said the Isuzu truck and 141 boxes of Remington Gold cigarettes are forfeited to the State.

“In aggravation of sentence, State advocate Phumudzo Mudau submitted that the accused persons have been convicted of very serious offences which are very prevalent within the court’s area of jurisdiction. They are not remorseful, and the state has a watertight case against them,” Malabi-Dzhangi said.

The court also heard that the value of the illicit cigarettes was “too high”, so a tough message had to be sent out to other offenders.

Mudau submitted the trade in illicit cigarettes destroys the local economy and contributes to the shedding of jobs.

“These activities also rob the country of much-needed revenue that enables the government to deliver basic services to the poor and vulnerable,” Mudau said.

Meanwhile, director of public prosecutions in Limpopo, advocate Ivy Thenga has applauded the prosecution team, the South African Revenue Service and the police for the conviction and sentences.