By Thupeyo Muleya
Two South African soldiers aged 27 and 38 were on Friday evening arrested along with a 30-year-old foreigner for using an army vehicle to transport a consignment of 12 boxes of cigarettes worth R160 000 which had been smuggled from Zimbabwe.
The army men and the foreigner whose names are yet to be released by the neighbouring country’s police, are expected to appear at the Musina Magistrate Court soon.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo confirmed the arrest yesterday.
He said the trio was intercepted near Baobab Truck-stop along the N1 highway following a tip-off while en-route to meeting a potential buyer.
“The police at Beitbridge received information about an army vehicle which was loaded with illicit cigarettes which were to be delivered to an unidentified buyer around Musina,” said Brig Mojapelo.
“They then reacted by conducting a stop and search operation next to the Baobab Truck Park along the N1 road north of Musina.
“The army vehicle fitting the description given approached and the members pulled it over”.
He said upon being stopped by the police, the two uniformed soldiers and a civilian who was wearing an army jacket disembarked from the vehicle.
Brig Mojapelo said the vehicle was searched and 12 boxes of Remmington Gold cigarettes valued at R160 000 were found packed in the back of the vehicle.
He said the civilian was immediately arrested but the armed soldiers reportedly became confrontational and refused to be arrested.
“The police confiscated the said vehicle. The soldiers were later brought to the police station by their Commander and were then detained.
They will be charged with possession of illicit cigarettes, defeating the ends of justice and resisting arrest,” said Brig Mojapelo.
He said the undocumented foreigner will be charged with impersonating members of South Africa’s National Defence Forces (SANDF) and contravening a section of the Immigration Act.
Limpopo Police Commissioner Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe commended her subordinates for reacting swiftly to the tip-off and apprehending the suspects.
In 2006, two South African Home Affairs officials and a Zimbabwean were arrested at the same border for attempting to smuggle 100 pieces of ivory and 400 bricks of cigarettes worth billions of dollars.
A South African Home Affairs Ministry official truck was used to smuggle the contraband. The Chronicle