South African Police Crack Down on Car Smuggling Syndicates

by Motoni Olodun

South Africa is intensifying its efforts to curb the illegal trade of stolen vehicles across its borders, especially to Zimbabwe and other neighboring countries1. The South African Police Service (SAPS) has launched a series of anti-smuggling operations in Limpopo province, targeting hotspots known for illicit activities and smuggling networks.

According to Limpopo police spokesperson Colonel Malasela Ledwaba, the SAPS has arrested several suspects and seized numerous vehicles that were reported stolen in various parts of South Africa. The vehicles were destined to be smuggled into Zimbabwe through the Beitbridge border post or the Limpopo River, and then transported to other countries such as Malawi, Mozambique, Tanzania and Zambia.

One of the latest arrests was made on Friday, February 23, when the Provincial Tracking team, in collaboration with private security companies, intercepted a pick-up truck valued at over R1 million in Polokwane. The vehicle was reported stolen on February 21 in Alberton, Gauteng province. The 33-year-old South African male suspect was arrested following a high-speed car chase and is expected to appear before Polokwane Magistrate’s Court on Monday.

Last month, a 36-year-old Zimbabwean man was sentenced to eight years in prison by a Mokopane Regional Court after he was found driving a stolen car that was heading to the Limpopo River7. Cosmos Ndou was part of a racket that involved stealing cars in South Africa and handing them over to Zimbabwean drivers who would take them to the next border through Mozambique, where Malawian and Mozambican drivers would then take over.

The smuggling of vehicles has become rampant around the border line and the government is losing millions of dollars in import revenue annually. A modest car is charged 96 percent import duty inclusive of VAT and surtax on the total invoice value10. Indications are that most of these cars are stolen from rental cars in South Africa, while some thefts are orchestrated by insurance fraud syndicates. The vehicles are clandestinely sold and smuggled out of South Africa, after which their owners, working with syndicates, report them stolen and claim insurance money.

The SAPS has vowed to continue its clampdown on the illegal smuggling activities and urged the public to cooperate with the authorities and report any suspicious movements of vehicles or persons. The SAPS also warned the public to be vigilant when buying second-hand vehicles and to verify their authenticity and history before making any transactions.

The anti-smuggling operation is part of the broader efforts by the South African government to enhance border security and cooperation with its neighbors. The government is also working on the establishment of the Beitbridge One-Stop Border Post, which is expected to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of border management and facilitate trade and movement of people between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

The project, which is being implemented in partnership with the Zimbabwean government and the African Development Bank, is expected to be completed by 2025. The project will also contribute to the regional integration and development agenda of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) and the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA).

Source: Herald


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