Contraband cigarette arrest points to smuggling in the military – Marais

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The soldier caught with a haul of apparently illegal cigarettes has again, according to a Democratic Alliance (DA) MP, raised questions about contraband and specifically smuggling of tobacco products by uniformed personnel.

Kobus Marais, who holds the defence and military veterans portfolio in his party’s shadow cabinet, told defenceWeb exclusively he had information about cigarette smuggling in the ranks of soldiers – particularly those deployed on the border protection tasking Operation Corona.

“The Seshego arrest at the weekend is, to me, further confirmation of smuggling activities in the SA National Defence Force (SANDF),” he said, calling the non-commissioned officer’s arrest “an embarrassing act of defiance by soldiers supposed to protect South Africans, the national economy and the integrity of the country”.

Soldiers doing border protection are most likely to have opportunities for smuggling. As part of normal patrol work they encounter smugglers as well as undocumented people. While contraband is supposed to be handed to police and SA Revenue Service (SARS) personnel, Marais maintains this is not always done. Moving illicitly acquired illegal cigarettes can happen by using official vehicles. This was the case with the soldier arrested at the weekend. He had close to 30 cardboard boxes labelled with a popular detergent all packed with cartons of cigarettes loaded in a military vehicle.

arais points to the decrease in the value of contraband declared by the SANDF in its latest presentation the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) as an indicator all is not well.

This gives the value of contraband for the fourth quarter of 2019/20 as R4.9 million. The previous three quarters were higher at R8.6 million, R16 million and R12 million.

“The Seshego arrest puts a question mark on official statistics,” he said.

Marais intends using Parliamentary questions to access more information on possible wrongdoing as well as finding out what “the Minister (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula), Secretary for Defence (Sam Gulube) and CSANDF (General Solly Shoke) will do”.