Komatipoort - The South African Police Service's Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) has warned tourists against engaging in illegal currency exchanges at the Lebombo border post between Mpumalanga and Mozambique.
With the inland provinces’ schools closing for the winter holidays this coming Friday, thousands of tourists from both South Africa and Mozambique will be confronted by hawkers offering to exchange their money at the border post, near Komatipoort.
"The exchanging of foreign currency next to the road is an illegal practice and it is against the law on both sides of the border, whether it is for rand notes or meticais. Tourists are urged to remember that. If caught, you will be charged with money laundering,” said Hawks provincial spokesperson Captain Dineo Sekgotodi on Thursday.
Last year, on Christmas Day, two Mozambican citizens were arrested and charged with money laundering, during a raid by the Hawks.
Bank notes amounting to no less than R75m were found in a secret compartment of their vehicle.
This week, African Eye News Service interviewed a South African couple who are involved in the money exchange.
"We travel to Mozambique very often and we do these exchanges just as often. The past three trips to Maputo, we did business with the same woman, or so called agent. In the boot of her car, I could see banknotes, including euros, dollars and rands. Lots of it. It looks like it is a lucrative business," said the wife, who asked not to be named.
Maputo Corridor Logistics Initiative chief executive Barbara Mommen urged travellers to have all their money issues sorted before going on holiday.
"Do not use the private individuals alongside the road for foreign exchange. Not only is this illegal, but you stand a good chance of being ripped off," she said.
Mommen said immigration processes at the border posts had recently been simplified.
"All tourists have to do is follow the route along all the different desks. No firearms will be allowed across the border and tourists must remember that it is not possible to hand it in at any police station in South Africa for safekeeping, due to changes of legislation. No animals will be allowed through either. Navigating borders can be a stressful experience, especially if you are unprepared to face the bureaucracy," said Mommen.