Drugs and stolen vehicles seized by SANDF soldiers on border patrol

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Members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) have recovered multiple stolen vehicles and hundreds of kilograms of drugs on the borders of South Africa, with one episode resulting in a shootout between smugglers and soldiers.

Over several days, multiple stolen vehicles were recovered by 15 South African Infantry Battalion (SAI), reports Captain CM Lengwasa for Joint Operations Tactical Headquarters Mpumalanga. On the evening of Friday 17 March 2023, 15 SAI received a tip-off from the South African Police Service (SAPS) that a suspected stolen vehicle was parked at a house south of Komatipoort. Bravo Company subsequently searched the house and found a Toyota Hilux Legend 50 in the garage. The owner of the house, a South African woman, was taken to Tonga Police Station for questioning and the vehicle taken into police custody.

The following day, Bravo Company soldiers were conducting patrols along the border with Mozambique when they spotted three vehicles driving towards them. When the soldiers approached the vehicles, their occupants started firing, and so the soldiers returned fire. The three drivers escaped on foot together with two suspects who were in the bushes directing the vehicles.

All three vehicles (two Toyota Fortuners and a Toyota Hilux Raider) were recovered with fake registrations. Two were reported stolen and one vehicle had no records. All three vehicles were handed over to the SAPS.

In addition to stolen vehicles, 15 SAI soldiers also recovered large quantities of drugs, Captain Clifford Mabalane Lengwasa reported for Joint Operations Tactical Headquarters Mpumalanga. On 18 March in the Monzana area of operations, soldiers confronted two men crossing from Eswatini with sack bags. On seeing the soldiers, they dropped their bags, containing 60 kg of dagga, and fled back to Eswatini. The recovered dagga has an estimated value of R250 000.

That evening, at Emahlathini, soldiers apprehended a man illegally crossing from Eswatini with ten rolls of dagga. He was handed over to Piet Retief Port of Entry SA Police Service. The dagga weighed 4 kg and was valued at R18 034. Shortly afterwards, soldiers apprehended two men also crossing from Eswatini with 3.7 kg of dagga worth R15 000. They were handed over to the SAPS.

Later that night, soldiers spotted a vehicle making a U-turn on their patrol route and halted a Volkswagen Amarok that was suspected to have been stolen. Upon being searched, it was discovered to have been carrying 33 plastic bags of dagga weighing nearly 100 kg and valued at R409 000. The suspected smugglers were apprehended and detained and the vehicle was impounded.

Soldiers subsequently discovered nine abandoned bags along the border fence containing 334 kg of dagga with an estimated value of R1.4 million. In total, 500 kg of dagga was recovered, with a combined value of R2.1 million.

Lengwasa said the SANDF and SAPS are doing a stellar job in mitigating the crime in Mpumalanga with Operation Corona border safety operations. “The union between the two Departments’ representatives in Macadamia is fruitful and restores the trust of the civilians towards these organisations.”