Police Minister Fikile Mbalula has vowed to root out a deeply-entrenched and complicated syndicate that operates along South Africa’s borderline. He was addressing thousands of Manguzi community members on the KwaZulu-Natal north coast.

They have been protesting about cross-border crimes that involve hijacking of 4×4 vehicles and taking them across the border into Mozambique. Hundreds of vehicles believed to have been hijacked in South Africa are said to be in Mozambique.

Several efforts aimed at curbing the crime have not been successful.  Community members are now pinning their hopes on Mbalula following his intervention.

Thousands of Manguzi community members waited in song – which faded as the day wore on. Their spirits were dampened by the long wait for Mbalula on a blazing hot day on an open sports field.

The Police Minister finally arrived, as people tried to hide from the scorching sun under umbrellas and Marula trees. They re-converged for the much-awaited address, but had no patience left for a planned prayer item.

Addressing the community, uMhlabuyalingana Society Against Crime leader Juda Mthethwa shared some of their frustrations, including key questions such as when would government retrieve the South African cars from Mozambique.

“We demand that all our cars that were taken forcefully from us be returned. We also request that our SAPS members return to their base in Mozambique.”

Mbalula apologised for his late arrival and did not waste time in addressing the community’s concerns.

He said the first aim was to stop the syndicate in its tracks.

“The first intervention is to locate the syndicates that are operating in this area and throughout SA that steal cars and take them across into the border Mozambique. We need to intensify our plans with regards to that. The second part is to fix the border. Our border is not only porous but it is easy to get these vehicles to cross. So we need a multi-disciplinary approach which will include our sister force, the national defence force.”

Mbalula assured the victims of hijackings that their vehicles will be retrieved and returned to South African shores.

He says he will lead a South African delegation to Mozambique and communicate the country’s demands, which will include meetings with the Ministry of Defence and Police. He says in two weeks these two countries will have produced a joint plan that will seek to secure borders.

“To talk about and fix our MOU in relations to cross border criminality that we need to fix between the two countries. Cars get stolen, taken to Mozambique; they never come back because they are bought by even public servants and officials within security forces. We need to fix that because if we are going to have a neighbour who is not helping in fighting crime that is too detrimental to the safety of the region and the peaceful co-existence between the two countries.”

The small border town has ground to a halt since last Friday as local residents protested about their plight. Only a local hospital, clinics and two filling stations have been functioning, while the main route to the Kosi Bay Border Gate had been reopened. Other businesses and schools remain closed.

It was agreed at the meeting with Mbalula that businesses and schools should re-open.

A strong police contingent will remain at Manguzi until calm returns.

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