By Thupeyo Muleya
South African police recovered another vehicle on Monday which was being smuggled from that country into Zimbabwe through the Limpopo River, bringing the number of vehicles recovered within a week to five.
In the latest incident, the car was being pulled across the river by donkeys on Monday afternoon.
On Thursday last week, the same team also arrested a 28-year-old man whom they caught smuggling another stolen Mercedes Benz near the Panda Mine area of Beitbridge on the South African side of the border.
Earlier that week, police also recovered three other vehicles.
Limpopo police spokesperson, Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said investigations were in progress.
He said all the vehicles were recovered during operation ‘Vala Madi’, which is being jointly implemented by the police’s Crime Intelligence, Tactical Response Team, and Public Order Police, supported by South Africa’s Defence Forces. He said smuggling of goods and vehicles was rampant along the Limpopo River.
“A new shape Mercedes Benz sedan C220 was intercepted just in time before disappearing into Zimbabwe. The suspects were using donkeys to pull the car across the river but our members were just in time to pounce on them, after the donkeys were apparently no longer able to pull it through the sand,” said Brigadier Mojapelo.
“They (suspects) fled into the bushes towards the Zimbabwe side and investigations are in progress.”
Brigadier Mojapelo said most of the intercepted vehicles belong to rental companies.
He said three vehicles that were recovered all at once last week were an Audi A6 valued at R400 000; a Mercedes Benz C180 worth R380 000 and a Datsun Go valued at R90 000.
“The operation (Vala Madi) is targeted at areas along the borderline between Phafuri, Beitbridge and Pont drift. The success is similar to the one in which the Provincial Commissioner Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba intercepted a stolen vehicle that was being pulled by donkeys in the middle of Limpopo River during December last year,” he said.
“We managed to recover a vehicle that got stuck in the middle of the same river. The operation also yielded good results when a splash Range Rover valued at R900 000 was intercepted en-route to Malawi. The driver was arrested and found with R30 000 in his possession. The vehicle was on the verge of crossing to Zimbabwe.”
Smuggling of stolen vehicles from South Africa is rampant along the Limpopo River.
In 2012, Zimbabwean police smashed a well-orchestrated car smuggling syndicate near the Panda Mine area and arrested seven Malawians and recovered five top of the range vehicles worth four million rand.
The vehicles included two Toyota Fortuners, one Nissan Navarra, Toyota High Rider and a Toyota Vigo. The Chronicle