Thieves’ border breeze

2014-12-17 00:00

STOLEN and hijacked vehicles are handed to a network of drivers who take them across the border.

Each driver receives about R5 000 to take the vehicle from one place to another. The drivers of a vehicle are changed up to three times during a trip. The drivers do not know each other. The arrest of one does not threaten to expose the rest of the network.

Drivers often have a passenger, who scours the vehicles for tracking devices and makes it “safe”. Panels as well as airbags are opened to look for the devices. In certain cases the vehicles are kept at a “safe haven” where the parts and components are taken apart.

Three patrollers guide the vehicle through danger zones while it is en route and close to the border — where the defence force and local cops patrol the area.

The vehicles are normally smuggled via a border post but can also be driven over border fencing.

While visiting the area, sister paper Beeld found two-lane roads where stolen and hijacked vehicles have repeatedly driven over a border fence between the Lebombo border post and defence force barracks, and about a kilometre up the nearby mountain.

There were at least seven holes in the border fence.

The N4 highway in Mpumalanga is one of the routes used by the syndicates. They also use a network of gravel roads crossing farms from Kaapmuiden and Malalane, south of the Kruger Park.

“There are between three and five syndicates that smuggle vehicles across the border. Each has its own area and no one would dare to another’s area,” said a source.

• South Africa needs 70% more defence force members to protect the country’s borders.

According to the Department of Defence annual action plan, 2 145 soldiers from 13 units currently protect the borders.

DA MP David Maynier, the party’s shadow minister of Defence, and Dr Sam Gulube, secretary of defence, feel that 3 630 soldiers from 22 units are needed to do the job.

President Jacob Zuma and his cabinet are protected by 5 378 police officers.

“It is very difficult to believe that we have more security guards to carry bags for the ministers than we have soldiers to patrol our borders.

“We are clearly not serious about our borders,” said ­Maynier.

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