Police seize homemade river crossing equipment

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Police have prevented suspected smugglers from using makeshift equipment to cross the Limpopo River.

A statement issued by the SA Police Service (SAPS) Provincial Commissioner’s Office in Limpopo has it “operationalised information gathered” saw a homemade wooden ferry and two ladders “seized”. It adds “all illegal ferries and ladders that were seized and wooden bridges” were destroyed.

Those involved, as per the statement, were joint forces comprising “border policing teams from various provincial border business units deployed at Beitbridge Port of Entry (PoE)”.

Furthermore, the operation resulted in the apprehension of nine foreign nationals, all male suspects aged between 21 and 45, for contravening immigration laws. The arrests took place on 26 February at Ntsako village outside Letsitele in Mopani District.

Lauding the collaborative efforts of the teams, Provincial Commissioner of Police in Limpopo, Lieutenant General Thembi Hadebe, commended the success achieved in disrupting smuggling activities along the border.

Various border security-related successes were reported by the SAPS in the fourth quarter of last year, with three big drug busts at the Durban Harbour, where cocaine to the value of R300 million was seized in separate incidents.

“The most recent drug bust during this period was for cocaine to the value of R151 million on the 4th of December 2023. The fourth drug bust was at the Gqerberha Sea Port, where cocaine worth R65 million was seized,” Police Minister Bheki Cele said last week when giving the latest crime statistics.

In June last year another SAPS border unit success was reported when cocaine valued at R12 million was confiscated by “border police officers attached to the Ngqura sea port in the Eastern Cape province”. The drug was reportedly stashed in an empty cargo container and was part of the SAPS national operation Shanela.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) was handed the border protection tasking in 2009 after SAPS management indicated police were not able to execute the necessary functions to prevent illegal immigration and curb smuggling of cigarettes, liquor, clothing, footwear and cosmetics, amongst others. This saw the deployment of soldiers from regular and reserve units deployed along South Africa’s 4 862 km of land border with six adjacent countries under Operation Corona.

It was envisaged the deployment would grow to 22 companies from a base of 13 which has not happened with budget constraints given as the reason for limiting strength on the borders to 15 companies.

Since it was launched last October in Musina, Border Management Authority (BMA) border guards have added manpower to the border protection function, particularly in an around ports of entry.