South African police crackdown on tobacco crime

Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau

Police in South Africa’s Limpopo province has intensified their crackdown on the smuggling of cigarettes between the neighbouring country and Zimbabwe.


Provincial police spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Malesela Ledwaba said they were not relenting in their quest to combat crime.


He said on Friday they intercepted two migrants transporting a consignment of cigarettes worth over R70 000 which had been smuggled from Zimbabwe.


On Sunday last week, they arrested two other migrants and seized a truck and the cigarettes all worth R1,5 million.


“The relentless efforts made by the police in the fight against the smuggling and illegal trading in illicit cigarettes continue to yield positive results following the apprehension of two suspects along the N1 road next to Botlokwa yesterday on Friday,” said Lt Col Ledwaba.


“The truck transporting animal food (Lucerne), was stopped by the police along the N1 road towards Polokwane, as it approached Sekonye junction under Botlokwa policing area.


“This after the information was received that the two suspects were actually transporting illicit cigarettes”.


He said the truck was disguised to be carrying stacks of Lucerne in the rear section of the trailer to deceive the police.


Upon further inspection, the police discovered that half of the front side was fully loaded with 104 cartoons of Remington Gold illicit cigarettes with an estimated street of R70.000.


Lt Col Ledwaba said preliminary investigations revealed that the cigarettes had allegedly been smuggled from Zimbabwe.


“The suspects aged 25 and 28 are expected to appear before Morebeng Magistrate court soon facing charges of transportation and possession of illicit cigarettes,” he said.

South Africa has become one of the major destinations and conduits where mostly cigarettes are smuggled through the Beitbridge border post or illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.


It is also difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa because of the high excise duty rates in that country (on tobacco or cigarettes).


Statistics from SARS show that a total of 82 689 043 kg of tobacco were imported from Zimbabwe between January 2010 and March 2015.


These include imports of Cigars, Cheroots, Cigarillos, and Cigarettes, of Tobacco or of Tobacco Substitutes.

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