Hours before the Border Management Authority (BMA) unpacked the 2023/24 festive season statistics, police halted a vehicle that was transporting 23 Ethiopian nationals who were smuggled into the country from Zimbabwe.
The Limpopo provincial tracking team working with two private security companies were tipped off on Saturday about a white Toyota Quantum that was driving along the R81 road from Beitbridge en route to Polokwane.
“It is reported that the operational team has successfully spotted the Quantum at a filling station on the R81 in Sebayeng and upon checking they discovered that 23 Ethiopian male nationals aged between 20 and 38 in a 15-seater passenger minibus (being driven by) a 44-year-old male South African.
“It is reported that the driver was found in possession of a licensed firearm, and it was confiscated for investigation purposes.
“While in the process of searching the Quantum and the passengers, they suddenly saw a white Toyota Fortuner which stopped at the scene being driven by a male foreign national. The driver of the Fortuner reportedly tried to bribe the police with R5 000 to let the Quantum with the passengers go, and subsequently he was charged for bribery,” said Limpopo police spokesperson Malesela Ledwaba.
The two drivers and the 23 passengers are expected to appear in the Mankweng Magistrate's Court on Monday on charges of contravention of the Immigration Act, among others.
Meanwhile, BMA commissioner Mike Masiapato presented the festive season operation stats on Sunday, which covered the period between December 6 and January 18 this year.
More than 5 million travellers were processed over the holidays.
The agency detected about 15 924 individuals who were attempting to enter South Africa without the requisite documentation.
The majority of interceptions occurred at the Lebombo land port of entry with 6 808, followed by 1 891 at Beitbridge.
“We remain concerned about some conveyancers, meaning public transporters who continue to consciously transport illegal migrants across our ports of entry and border law enforcement areas. During this period, we imposed about 98 administrative fines on various conveyancers, especially bus companies to the value of R3 540 000 for transporting illegal migrants at the cost of R15 000 per person as per section 50 (3) of the Immigration Act of 2002,” said Masiapato.
He said they were able to collect R9.8 million in outstanding fines from about 25 bus companies. BMA also nabbed 246 suspects and seized four tube boats used to aid illegal migrants in crossing rivers into South Africa.