By Staff Reporter
THE South African Police Service (SAPS) claims to have contained a massive cigarette smuggling syndicate involving Zimbabwean cigarettes and alcohol contraband due to its latest robust anti-smuggling operation.
The illicit trade in cigarettes from Zimbabwe to South Africa boomed when the neighbouring country banned formal tobacco trade as part of its measures to contain the spread of the coronavirus virus on March 27.
This opened floodgates for smugglers who fed the thriving black market for Zimbabwe cigarettes.
However, SAPS, in conjunction with the South African military, responded by launching a forceful operation which has since resulted in the arrest of dozens of Zimbabweans and the recovery of cigarettes worth US$1.8 million over the past three months.
SAPS Limpopo province’s spokesperson Motlafela Mojapelo told NewZimbabwe.com Monday they were now in control of the situation following the blitz.
“Incidents of smuggling of illicit cigarettes and beer have significantly gone down since we launched the joint operation,” Mojapelo said over the phone.
“Remember we had to enlist the support of the South African Defence Force to help us contain the situation and, also, we are grateful to our Zimbabwean counterparts who have helped a lot.
“So I can safely say the operation has helped us a lot. We have for instance not had a single interception for almost two weeks now and it signals the reduction of the trade.”
According to the South African Revenue Services (SARS), the neighbouring country loses over US$470 million per year in unpaid taxes due to cigarette smuggling.