File image

Durban - A volatile protest over water access combined with the hawk eyes of the police who pulled over an overloaded truck ended in the arrest of five illegal immigrants early on Wednesday.

Police spokesman Captain Thulani Zwane confirmed the chain of events and said that, at about midnight, Ladysmith SAPS officers responded to a call on the R103 close to the Road Traffic Inspectorate offices outside the northern KwaZulu-Natal town.

“On searching the truck they discovered 10 males, five of whom were arrested for being illegal immigrants.”

A police officer at the scene told the Daily News on Wednesday that the large truck appeared to be overloaded and the driver was told to pull over by traffic officials, who then called in the SAPS.

He said the driver was instructed to open up the back section and remove some of the cargo being carried.

“They were going to Malawi from Pietermaritzburg and were transporting bicycles, (drums of) paint, plastic chairs, blankets, and a few other items.”

Illegal immigrants often moved across the country’s borders to help family members move out of their home countries, or were migrant labourers and returned home for brief periods.

The officer said his colleagues noticed some movement under a cloth in the spaces between all the equipment and supplies.

“We asked them for their passports, but only five of them could show us legitimate documentation. The rest had to be taken into custody.”

The next step, he said, was to check a national registry, which cross-referenced fingerprints on record (of people who entered the country legally) with those of the men arrested because people often lost their documentation.

The officer said this was the third incident they had come across on this route.

What was different along this route this time, he said, was the heavy police presence as a result of a massive protest near Roosboom, where 700 residents had been protesting for better water facilities in the area for the past week.

Senior researcher at the Conflict Management and Peacebuilding division at the Institute of Security Studies Andre Roux said the problem of illegal entry stemmed from the belief that South Africa was the land of milk and honey of the continent.

“This country, to many, is the land of milk and honey, a place which has many pull factors, including the economic, medical and educational,” he said.

Daily News