Border communities fed-up over smuggling

The South African-Mozambican border line at Komatipoort.

NAAS – Emotions ran high when Mpumalanga MEC for community safety, security and liaison, Mr Pat Ngomane met with the Steenbok community and members of safety structures as part of ongoing efforts to tighten border security and reduce crime in the area, on Saturday morning.

Residents of the village close to the border complained that car thieves and their buyers were known to authorities but were not being arrested. Mostly SUVs and light delivery vehicles were being stolen and smuggled over the border to be sold in the neighbouring countries.

Another complaint was that illegal smuggling routes were known to the police officers and soldiers patrolling the border.

Community members pleaded with government representatives to enhance vehicle tracking systems so that stolen vehicles could be recovered faster, before they cross the border.

Increased cooperation between the three countries was also requested as this could be of great help when tracking stolen vehicles.

Residents alleged that some police officers were working with criminals, which made it difficult to solve cases.

They urged the MEC to ensure that police informants were safe. They alleged that suspects would later come and intimidate anyone who gave tip-offs to the police.

Government was urged to ensure that SANDF members regularly patrolled the border to address the challenges of light delivery vehicle theft, illegal crossing of foreign nationals and the smuggling of counterfeit goods.

Extra border security measures were implemented in April and bore fruit, forcing criminals to use other avenues to transport their cargo.

READ: New border security measures prove very effective

In May, SANDF members told the minister of defence that their work was being hampered by a lack of resources and budget constraints.

READ: Community and soldiers discuss border challenges with minister

The deteriorating condition of the border fence has also regularly been cited by communities as a contributing factor to the ongoing smuggling.

A member of a local community policing forum, Mr Stanley Madonsela described how he and a group of people had to retrieve a vehicle, stolen from his sister, from Mozambique.

He said that he and the group he had organised, located informants, who led them to the vehicle in Mozambique. The vehicle was then brought back. However, he was forced to organise payment for the vehicle to the people who had taken possession of it.

In response, Ngomane urged the community to work with the police to combat crime.

“Government will only win the war against crime if effective partnerships between the police and the community exist. Community members should not support rogue elements even if they are related to them. Police should also play their part by ensuring that they speedily arrest the suspects and protect whistle blowers. Witnesses of crime should testify in court so that suspects are successfully convicted,” he stated.

SAPS management was instructed to identify the officials who work with criminals and ensure they are removed from the service.

READ: Female law enforcers crack down on criminal activities

The MEC also pleaded with parents to curb alcohol consumption by teenagers, as this resulted in them becoming victims of crime and road accidents.

He stated that his department would continue to work with the police to ensure that liquor trading establishments that do not comply with the law will be closed.

Corridor Gazette

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