Mpumalanga police have confirmed the arrest of a taxi driver found driving a taxi filled with undocumented foreign nationals -- said to be Bangladeshi and Pakistani nationals -- in Nelspruit on Monday.
Police said they have since opened cases of human trafficking and contravention of the Immigration Act after police intercepted the vehicle transporting 23 foreign nationals.
Police spokesperson Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi said Mbombela (Nelspruit) crime intelligence and the highway patrol units received a tip-off about a Toyota Quantum travelling on the N4 and R38 with passengers suspected to be undocumented persons.
Sekgotodi said the 23 suspects included 14 Pakistani and nine Bangladeshi nationals aged between 14 and 46.
The vehicle was spotted on the R38 leading to Low’s Creek in the area of Kaapmuiden.
The driver, 33, who was interviewed to determine the origins of the passengers, reportedly told police he was instructed to pick up people on the road to Delmas.
The Hawks were subsequently alerted to be on thee look-out for the vehicle resulting in the arrest on Monday.
“Preliminarily investigations revealed 23 undocumented persons aged between 14 and 46 were being transported — a total of 14 Pakistani and nine Bangladeshi nationals. Among the group were two minors aged 14 and 17,” said Sekgotodi.
“It was discovered some passengers had passports but some did not. The available passports were unstamped.”
All the suspects were detained pending their first court appearance in the Barberton District Court on Wednesday.
The driver was arrested on charges of contravening the Prevention and Combating of Trafficking in Persons Act.
“The driver was arrested on charges of contravening the Trafficking in Persons Act 7 of 2013, aiding and abetting,“ he said.
The arrest comes just two days after Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi said South Africa was unable to account for the number of undocumented foreign nationals who have settled in the country.
On Sunday, Motsoaledi addressed a media briefing in Pretoria on a White Paper on Citizenship, Immigration, and Refugee Protection.
The paper has been made available for public feedback.
One of the issues facing the country in terms of immigration, Motsoaledi said, was that the numerous legislation did not correlate with one another.
The white paper recommends the government examine the Border Management Authority Act in order to harmonise it with the Citizenship and Immigration Act.
Many foreigners come to South Africa and stay in the country illegally. No one can account for all the undocumented migrants. The Department of Home Affairs has no idea as to how many illegal migrants are in South Africa.
“There are those who believe that Stats South Africa knows. But it does not. I have checked this many times with the statistician-general (Risenga Maluleke), especially after the recent statistics being released,” the minister said.