Weeping, hiding as Home Affairs officials held

By Shaun Smillie Time of article published Aug 26, 2011

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It should have been just an ordinary day, a day perhaps to be spent eliciting bribes from illegal aliens.

But for the 14 Home Affairs officials at the Lebombo border post in Mpumalanga that day ended shortly before 9am today.

One by one the officials were plucked from their work stations as travelers and those crossing the border looked on. Handcuffs clicked and rights were read.

There were 15 in all arrested at the border post, 14 home affairs officials and a police woman. All were charged with corruption. The arrests were the latest in Operation Mahlabandlovu. This is a joint Home Affairs and police initiative to crack down on corruption at border posts.

The operation began just after sunrise on Friday morning when police and Home Affairs officials gathered at the Tonga police station. From Tonga police and home affairs teams spread out across the province to make arrests. Some were made at home others at places of work.

A large convoy of police and Home Affairs officials arrived at the border post just after 8am. Investigators had envelopes with the names of the suspects on the them. After asking around, the suspects were pointed out.

At Lebombo one arrested Home Affairs woman burst into tears when police slipped handcuffs on her wrists. Another appeared to shocked to say anything.

One went into hiding and it took an effort by the police, Home Affairs and a contingent of journalists to find her.

Another arrested home affairs official's car was searched.

Inside investigators found several passports and equipment to take fingerprints. This, said the head of investigations at Home Affairs Advocate Connie Moitse is illegal. "What they are doing is the illegal facilitation of foreigners into the country," she said.

It is believed that some these corrupt officials can make up to R10000 a day.

Other arrested officials had passports on them, including a pile of pakistani documents.

Spokesman lu tenant colonel Leonard Hlati said that the operation was intelligence driven and was the result of close co operation between Home Affairs and the Police. "There are still a lot more border gates we need to do," he said.

Moitse said that the officials that were arrested have already been served with suspension papers and that the Asset Forfeiture unit is likely to become involved. - The Star

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