100 vehicles smuggled a month

KOMATIPOORT - As many as 100 stolen vehicles a month are being smuggled over the border to Mozambique, the SA National Defence Force said yesterday.

KOMATIPOORT - As many as 100 stolen vehicles a month are being smuggled over the border to Mozambique, the SA National Defence Force said yesterday.

Criminal syndicates were using the mountainous terrain of the Mozambican border to hide their activities before the vehicles were driven to the nearby N4, giving them a clear path to Maputo, said Colonel Patrick Bobelo.

"More than 100 vehicles are smuggled a month: Land Cruisers, 4x4s, Mercedes-Benzes, even small cars," he told Parliament's defence committee.

The syndicates drove the vehicles to the border where South African villagers sheltered them, hid the vehicles and provided information on local law enforcement before each crossing was attempted.

Along South Africa's border with Zimbabwe the syndicates cut holes in the border fence then repaired them to conceal their activities. It was difficult for casual observers to see the repaired holes.

Villagers were paid R1000 to R2000 for their assistance, Bobelo said.

Where several hundred metres of the fence were missing it was because locals had stolen the wire, presumably to re-sell it elsewhere.

Defence Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and the defence committee were assessing conditions on the border before the SANDF takes over border monitoring from the police.

Sisulu said that the SANDFs redeployment would be a challenge.

"This is a major programme, the infrastructure is not the best it can be. We have a more than 2000m long border we have to look after," she said. - Sapa

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