Cigarettes make up the majority of recent confiscations by soldiers on border protection duty, with dagga and illegal immigrants adding to the recent success tally along with the recovery of stolen top-of-the-range 4x4s.
Cigarettes conservatively valued at more than R800 000 were seized by soldiers patrolling South Africa’s border with Zimbabwe, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) said this week. This border has long been used by cigarette smugglers to access particularly the Gauteng market where cigarettes are sold by spaza shops and, since lockdown and its tobacco products ban, street corner and parking lot vendors.
Information on the confiscations comes at the same time as Police Minister Bheki Cele reported a “breakthrough” in alcohol and cigarettes smuggled into South Africa.
Cele is reported as telling this week’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster briefing “(police) officers made a big breakthrough on the crossing of illegal cigarettes from neighbouring countries coming here. I think we have been doing well and it will continue”.
Details of illegal cigarettes intercepted by police and where were not reported in contrast with the SANDF, which supplied amounts and seizure sites.
One example is: “Soldiers busy with night patrol saw a suspicious white bakkie and tried to stop it. The driver drove into the bush and soldiers gave chase. The driver abandoned the vehicle and soldiers confiscated it. On closer inspection, the vehicle was found to be loaded with illicit cigarettes consisting of nine master boxes, 40 cartons and 575 packets of Express cigarettes to the value of R146 430”.
Another succinct statement this week said: “Soldiers busted cigarette smugglers in the area of Madimbo while busy with foot patrol alongside the Republic of South Africa and Zimbabwe border to the value of R599 283”.
A third statement, reporting on a vehicle control point at Baobab, notes the driver of a vehicle “transporting illegal cigarettes (seven master boxes, 40 cartons and six packets to the value of R184 353)” was arrested. Soldiers also found R31 500 in cash on the driver.
Elsewhere, soldiers on duty with police at a roadblock in the Pongola area of KwaZulu-Natal stopped and searched three suspects, finding just on six kg of dagga and soldiers near Madimbo recovered a Range Rover stolen in Gauteng. The vehicle was about to be moved across the border.