Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau
A 25-year-old Zimbabwean man has been fined R40 000 by a Polokwane Magistrate Court for smuggling into South Africa 330 cartons of Remington Gold cigarettes worth R87 000.
Walter Madhongi was arrested by the neighbouring country’s specialised crime unit, the Hawks in October this year.
South African police are cracking down on crime around Limpopo province in an operation code name ‘Zizo Jika Izinto’ (Things will change). Over 5 000 people have been arrested across the province since November 16 for crimes including border jumping, smuggling, drug peddling, armed robberies, and murder among others.
Madhongi was convicted on his own plea of guilty to charges of unlawfully dealing in cigarettes on Friday afternoon.
Hawks spokesperson for Limpopo, Captain Matimba Maluleke said the man has been in remand prison since his arrest on October 20 after failing to secure bail on several occasions.
“On October 20, the Hawks’ Serious Commercial Crime Investigation members received a tip-off about people who were selling illicit cigarettes at Polokwane Lodge,” he said.
He said the team immediately proceeded to the lodge where they found 330 cartoons of Remington Gold cigarettes hidden in one of the rooms. “The cigarettes to the value of R87 000 were seized and Madhongi was arrested.
He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to pay a fine of R40 000 or alternatively three years imprisonment. 18 months of the sentence were suspended on condition he pays a defects fine of R5 000,” said Captain Maluleke.
South Africa is the biggest destination for cigarettes smuggled from Zimbabwe. They are smuggled through the Beitbridge border post or illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.
Chronicle is reliably informed that almost 30 percent of the cigarettes on the South African market is from Zimbabwe, some of them smuggled into that country.
It is also difficult for Zimbabweans to export cigarettes to South Africa because of the high excise duty rates in that country on tobacco or cigarettes.
Most of the smuggled brands from Zimbabwe to the neighbouring country include Pacific, Remington gold, Kingsgate, Madison, Mega, Dullahs, Branson, and Servilles.