South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers from 9 South African Infantry Battalion (9 SAI) have recovered five stolen vehicles in two days, including four in one night that saw a shootout with the vehicle smugglers.
9 SAI’s Lieutenant A Divhambele reported the vehicles were recovered in the Macadamia area of responsibility where soldiers from Bravo Company under the command of Major Masindana Thomas Manyike were deployed.
On the evening of 13 June, smugglers tried to move a white Toyota Land Cruiser through the borderline. They were spotted by soldiers and stopped the vehicle before fleeing into the bushes on foot. The vehicle was recovered and handed over to Tonga SA Police Station for further investigation.
The next day, at around 3:00 am, criminals tried to smuggle two Toyota Hilux Legend 50 bakkies, a Toyota Fortuner and a Toyota Hilux bakkie across the border. Once detected by SANDF soldiers, the smugglers opened fire and one of the suspects was shot dead. The other three fled into the bushes and were never found, the SANDF reported.
The Officer Commanding Joint Tactical Headquarters Mpumalanga, Lieutenant Colonel Mbekiseni Eshmond Ndlangamandla, who also went to the scene, encouraged the deployed soldiers to make sure that the borderline is completely closed. He emphasised that the deployed soldiers are to make sure that the cross-border crime must be curbed, supporting the words of the company commander who mentioned that despite the intimidation by smugglers, his company will continue to work until the mission is accomplished.
The Provincial Commissioner of the South African Police Service (SAPS) in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Semakaleng Daphney Manamela, welcomed the interception and recovery of the four vehicles near the borderline with Mozambique.
All four vehicles were reported as stolen at Lyttleton and Florida (in Gauteng) as well as at Pienaar (in Mpumalanga).
The police are investigating an inquest case in relation to the incident.