Duo smuggles 24 Ethiopian border jumpers into SA via Zim The two cars used to transport the border jumpers soon after skipping Zimbabwe's border

Thupeyo Muleya, Beitbridge Bureau

LIMPOPO police on Wednesday arrested two men whom they found escorting 24 Ethiopian border jumpers they had smuggled into South Africa via Zimbabwe.

The two men who are also Ethiopians were caught transporting their countrymen in two vehicles.

They were travelling from the Beitbridge Border Post to Gauteng province using the R81 highway.

Limpopo police spokesperson, Colonel Malasela Ledwaba said the duo was intercepted in the Morebeng area following intensive investigations.

“Two foreign males suspected of human trafficking. The arrest took place on Wednesday in Morebeng following a rigorous investigation into activities suggesting the smuggling of several undocumented immigrants into South Africa,” said Col Ledwaba.

“The operation was conducted by members of the Provincial Tracking team in collaboration with private security companies, who on accurate information, intercepted two motor vehicles at the Munnik T-junction. “The suspects were en-route to Gauteng province traveling along the R81 after they passed through the Beitbridge Border Post.”

Upon inspection, Col Ledwaba said the officers discovered a total of 24 undocumented Ethiopian male nationals hidden inside the Toyota Fortuner and Hyundai H1 both with Gauteng registration numbers. Both drivers are also illegal immigrants from Ethiopia, he added.

Preliminary information revealed that all the 24 illegal immigrants aged between 18 and 40 were destined to Gauteng, confirming suspicions of an ongoing smuggling operation aimed at exploiting these vulnerable individuals for profit, said Col Ledwaba.

He said the 24 immigrants were charged for violating the Immigration Act, while the two drivers aged 28 and 30 are facing charges, including human trafficking and violating the Immigration Act.

The suspects will appear before Morebeng Magistrate’s Court on Friday. Last month the South African police intercepted another group of 25 Ethiopians soon after being smuggled into that country from Zimbabwe.

Ethiopian border jumpers

The group was also being transported in two vehicles by armed men who are believed to be part of a human smuggling syndicate that moves immigrants from the horn of Africa into that country.

In Zimbabwe, the Department of Immigration with the assistance of other security agents, have been intercepting Ethiopians, Somalians, Congolese, Eritreans and citizens of countries north of the Zambezi River during their great trek to south of the Limpopo.

It is understood that these are finding their way into the country through illegal crossing points in the northern and eastern parts of Zimbabwe.

According to security sources, the river is the main barrier for their trek to South Africa, hence they are intercepted at the border or roads leading to several illegal crossing points along the Limpopo River.

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