Two separate cigarette “interceptions” by soldiers in the last week again show the ease with which smugglers breach thinly protected borders and just how high the demand is for black market cigarettes in level three locked down South Africa.
Cigarettes conservatively valued at R1.4 million were taken from smugglers in the vicinity of the Beit Bridge port of entry between South Africa and Zimbabwe with the second confiscation in the Ndumo area of KwaZulu-Natal. This area borders both eSwatini and Mozambique and is currently home to a company from 4 Artillery Regiment from Potchefstroom in North West.
A SA National Defence Force (SANDF) social media posting on 1 July has it that “soldiers on night patrol confiscated illegal cigarettes from smugglers, suspected of being UDPs (undocumented persons) from Zimbabwe. The contraband, valued at R526 467, was handed to SA Revenue Service at Beit Bridge”.
The Ndumo seizure was executed by artillerymen from the regiment’s Bravo Company while on vehicle patrol on 29 June. A suspicious vehicle was pursued until it got stuck in dense off-road conditions. The driver ran away leaving branded cigarettes valued at around R930 000. The abandoned Toyota Hilux is valued at R90 000.
In another 4 Artillery bust in the same area on 25 June, a stolen vehicle loaded with copper wire was recovered before it could illegally leave South Africa and cross into Mozambique. The vehicle is a Toyota Legend with an estimated value of R75 000 and the copper wire is worth R38 500.
Colonel Merlin Albertyn, Officer Commanding Joint Operation tactical headquarters KZN, said the artillerymen showed commitment and dedication in executing the border protection tasking, one aspect of which is preventing cross-border criminal activity.
In May this year, soldiers seized R13 million in contraband goods on Operation Corona border protection tasking operations, R4,1 million worth of narcotics and recovered livestock worth R364 555 from rustlers. An unspecified number of stolen vehicles, valued at R6,8 million, were seized before they could be smuggled out of the country.
There are 15 companies from mostly infantry units (both regular and Reserve Force) deployed on a rotational basis along land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.