Op Corona patrols on song with seizures over festive season

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There was a brief, welcome interlude from the daily duty of border patrols for Operation Corona deployed soldiers to receive hampers and gifts during December with the back to work call seeing, among others, a top-end vehicle dragged from the Limpopo River and millions of rands worth of illicit cigarettes confiscated.

Mtubatuba-based 121 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion currently finds itself patrolling South Africa’s borders with Eswatini and Mozambique.  The daily routine of patrols and preparing for them was interrupted by a visit from unit commander, Lieutenant Colonel Maleshoane Mokopotsi bearing Christmas gifts.

Several hundred kilometres north-west of this border, gunners from 4 Artillery Regiment, under the command of Joint Tactical Headquarters Limpopo, called for police assistance after a suspected vehicle hijacker deserted his “catch” – a R700 000 twin-cab utility vehicle – in the Limpopo River, making good his escape to Zimbabwe.

The gunners turned part-time foot soldiers attempted to stop the vehicle for search and seizure. This was not to be with the driver refusing to stop and making for what was probably perceived the relative safety provided by water.

The vehicle was recovered with assistance from police at Beitbridge. The vehicle was stolen in Gauteng.

The first of two reported illicit cigarette seizures by the Potchefstroom unit saw over R500 000 worth of tobacco products dropped and left behind by smugglers in their haste to escape apprehension.

This seizure near Gumbu was followed by another in the vicinity of Mapungubwe National Park. Cigarettes worth over R1 million and a Toyota Quantum minibus (value R400 000) are now in police pounds for use as exhibits in court.

The confiscation took place following a tip-off froma SANParks staffer in Mapungubwe. Soldiers from Pontdrift Operational Base confiscated the vehicle after it was abandoned by the driver, who saw soldiers were going to intercept him, a SANDF report said.