bid to stem vehicle scam

MAPUTO - Faced with an increasing number of cars hijacked from South Africa and taken to other African countries, the SAPS has stationed a police unit 200km inside Mozambique.

MAPUTO - Faced with an increasing number of cars hijacked from South Africa and taken to other African countries, the SAPS has stationed a police unit 200km inside Mozambique.

The unit was stationed at Salamanga Bridge on the Maputo River, 200km from the border post of Ponta de Ouro, and works with Mozambican customs, border guards and traffic cops who man the bridge.

SAPS spokesman Superintendent Ian Smith said the move was taken in December. "We are having a good working relationship with Mozambican police officers," Smith said.

He, however, said it was difficult to come up with figures regarding the recovery rate.

"It's difficult to say we have an effective monitoring process for vehicles crossing this point (the Salamanga bridge) and our borders."

He said the trafficking of stolen cars into Mozambique was compounded by the fact that there was a network of "runners" who were always on the lookout for authorities to evade detection.

Last week, a Mercedes Benz four-wheel drive vehicle, reportedly stolen in Johannesburg, was recovered just after it had crossed the bridge. Smith said the car had been involved in an accident and the occupants fled from the scene.

No arrests were made.

The car was towed to the unit's offices from where it would be taken back to South Africa. Smith also said the SAPS was working with stolen car tracking and recovery companies. .

However, sources at Salamanga said the car-stealing network operated from that town and had influential people.

The sources alleged that members of the network are known to pay police officers so that they would take the stolen cars over the bridge.

Luxury cars stolen from South Africa have a ready market in Mozambique and other African countries where they easily pass through the borders after corrupt officers are paid bribes.

Human rights agencies rate the customs traffic police in Mozambique as the most corrupt law enforcers in the country. - Sapa

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