Soldiers tasked with border protection arrested

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Proof there are bad apples in every barrel comes with the arrest of soldiers deployed on the national border protection tasking Operation Corona for doing what they are supposed to prevent.

The arrests follow incidents in the Beit Bridge area of operations with one going back more than four years involving stolen vehicles and corruption and the other more recent and involving apparent transport of illegal cigarettes.

Both were reported by the media with the stolen vehicle incident a news report on the government broadcaster SABC. IOL was apparently first to tell South Africans of soldiers’ alleged involvement in ensuring illegal cigarettes were reaching an apparent buyer.

Six soldiers from unidentified bases in the Free State, North West and Northern Cape were, according to SABC News, arrested by the Hawks on Tuesday (22 June). They were “allegedly conniving with an international car smuggling syndicate to smuggle vehicles from South Africa to Zimbabwe during 2017 and 2019 when they were deployed around Beit Bridge border post outside Musina”.

The soldiers were reportedly charging the vehicle theft syndicate involved R15 000 per vehicle to cross the Limpopo River.

The six will reportedly appear in the Musina Magistrate’s Court this week.

In a statement today, the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Nosiviwa Mapisa-Nqakula noted the arrest of the six. “The investigation was conducted by a joint team of investigators from the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (DPCI) and the South African Police Services Crime Intelligence. SANDF law enforcement officials formed part of the sting operation to arrest the suspects.”

The Minister, according to the statement, “would like to state categorically and without contradictions that there is no place for criminal elements in the SANDF and that those that are allegedly involved in criminal activities will face the full might of the law without exceptions. The Minister wishes to remind and warn both civilian and uniformed members of the SANDF that ill-discipline and criminality in the military community will not be tolerated and those whose behaviour goes against the ethos of the defence force will be dealt with in accordance with the laws of the country regardless of the level or position in the SANDF.”

The second “bad apple” incident saw two soldiers arrested for allegedly transporting illegal cigarettes in a military vehicle this week.

They, along with an illegal immigrant, were arrested after police were tipped off about the illegal cigarette delivery. This information saw a stop and search operation at Baobab Truck Park on the N1 north of Musina. A military vehicle with the soldiers and civilian aboard was stopped and 12 boxes of illegal cigarettes worth an estimated R160 000 were found, Limpopo police said.

The soldiers were charged with the possession of illicit cigarettes, defeating the ends of justice and resisting arrest at Musina police station while the foreigner will face charges of impersonating a soldier and breaking the Immigration Act, according to IOL.