Vehicle smugglers on Wednesday engaged in a shootout with South African soldiers at an illegal entry point in Beitbridge, forcing them to flee and leave behind three stolen vehicles which were destined for Zimbabwe.
According to a statement by the South African National Defence Forces (SANDF), the vehicle smugglers left behind a Toyota Hilux valued at
R400 000, Volvo XC60 (R800 000) and a Toyota Fortuner (R430 000) after fleeing to the Zimbabwe side of the border.
“The vehicles were handed over to the SA Police Service (SAPS),” read the statement by one Captain ME Semono of the SANDF Joint Tactical Headquarters, Limpopo.
“SANDF soldiers were busy with Standing Patrol in the Madimbo area when they spotted a Toyota Fortuner which was travelling at a very high speed towards the illegal crossing point along the Republic of South Africa/Zimbabwe border. Upon trying to intercept the vehicle, the occupants of the vehicle fired shots from what looked like pistols.
“The soldiers returned fire and the suspects escaped towards the Zimbabwean side of the border. While the soldiers were trying to retrieve the Fortuner, shots were fired from the side of the Zimbabwean border allegedly by the suspects.
“Our members called for back-up and eventually managed to retrieve the vehicle. The soldiers did the mop-up operations around the area and discovered that there were two other vehicles hidden in the bushes.”
Reports say vehicle trafficking syndicates smuggle stolen cars through the Limpopo River, where donkeys are used to ferry the loot across.
Reports in January said SANDF soldiers were also shot at by three suspects while on patrol near the Zimbabwean border.
One of the suspects was arrested, while the other two managed to evade arrest and slipped across the border into Zimbabwe – NEWSDAY