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Zuma visits border area, commits to intensified action to stop cross-border crime

Zuma visits KZN border areaPresident Jacob Zuma has given an undertaking that government will take visible action to combat crime in the Mhlabuyalingana local municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal where there is tension between South Africans and Mozambicans.

He visited the area this week to meet the community and hear their concerns, according to The Presidency website. The local police station was reportedly found to be “severely under-resourced” and the President was taken to the border between Mozambique and South Africa where he was shown how vehicles, especially 4x4s and SUVs, are driven into the neighbouring country. He was told owners can apparently have their vehicles back if they pay up to R50 000 to alleged Mozambican hijackers reportedly working with “some locals”.

The Presidency statement has it that at least five national government departments are involved in the fight against cross-border crime. They are the SA Police Service, the Department of Defence, the State Security Agency and the department of Home Affairs and social Development.

Zuma was accompanied by the Premier of KwaZulu-Natal, Willies Mchunu; Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula; Minister of State Security, David Mahlobo; Minister of Communications, Faith Muthambi; Deputy Minister of Police, Maggie Sotyu; MEC for Community Safety and Liaison, Mxolisi Kaunda as well as mayors and the local traditional leader Inkosi Mabhudu Tembe.

“The visit has intensified the campaign drawing all spheres of government in unity toward eradicating crime and dealing with serious tensions in the area between citizens and migrants or visitors from neighbouring countries,” the statement said.

The Times reports Defence Minister Mapisa-Nqakula told the President her department has prioritised border issues, but financial and human resources were crippling their effort.

“We do everything but we always hit a snag when it comes to finances. There are huge expectations from us but budget cuts remain a problem. Our force guarding and patrolling the border has been cut down by about four thousand,” she is reported as saying.

The paper adds that Zuma “encouraged” Mapisa-Nqakula and ministers in the justice, crime prevention and security cluster to take the issue to cabinet. The defence minister currently chairs this cluster.

During the high-level visit the KZN premier said the province has set aside R48 million to fight cross border crime. SAnews said Mchunu had received complaints from people living on both the Mozambique and Swaziland borders about “high and intolerable levels of cross-border crime” including stock theft and vehicle hijackings.

He saw the role of the police as “critical” in fighting cross-border crime adding co-operation between other departments across all spheres of government would assist materially. He saw Zuma’s intervention as strengthening co-operation.

“While government pushes for economic integration through free trade, it is unfortunate international criminal networks are celebrating as they believe they will have access to this lucrative market,” the government publication reports Mchunu as saying.

“Reports suggest criminal groups have gained unlimited access to various transnational networks using sophisticated technology and in most cases they are assisted by corrupt officials working for government departments and law enforcement agencies.

“There are lucrative criminal enterprises operating in Africa, Europe and Asia who have, for many years been trading in endangered species such as rhino horn, ivory, abalone, copper, precious wood, precious stones and precious metals.

“In charge of these enterprises are professional Kingpins who recruit vulnerable unemployed people especially the youth for a variety of illicit activities that generate millions of Rand for them,” he said.