Date: 23 September 2021 By:
The Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation (Hawks) arrested another member of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on Monday for his alleged involvement in the cross-border vehicle-smuggling syndicate. This brings the total number of SANDF members arrested to nine.
Initially, six soldiers were arrested by the Hawks on 21 June this year. They were arrested in the North-West, Northern Cape and the Free State. A seventh accused handed himself over to the authorities later. All were stationed at the Beitbridge Border Post between 2017 and 2019. They had allegedly connived with vehicle-smuggling syndicates to smuggle stolen vehicles through the Limpopo River in exchange for money. In return, the arrested SANDF members would allegedly demand R15 000 per vehicle, which would be shared among themselves.
Five of the initial seven SANDF members arrested hold the rank of Private. They are Edward Lepokolo (48) from Sebokeng, Rapula Reuben Maidi (49) from Ikageng, Bulelani Danti (30) from King Williams Town, Peter Thato Nemane (52) from Soshanguve and Thembani Mjelo (31) from East London. Two accused hold the rank of Lance-Corporal. They are Marks Funeka (49) from Carletonville and Ludwe Gwedashe (44) from Port Elizabeth.
The Hawks’ continuous sting operation to address the scourge of cross-border crimes in Limpopo, dubbed operation “Night Vigil”, resulted in the arrest of an eighth suspect in connection with the Beitbridge smuggling case on 15 September in the Northern Cape. He was the 30-year-old Valentine Sedimosang Phetoe, who holds the rank of Private. Phetoe appeared in the Musina Magistrate’s Court last Thursday and was granted R3 000 bail. He and his seven co-accused, who were all granted R3 000 bail, will have to be back in court on 25 October for their next court appearance.
The ninth suspect, who was arrested in Polokwane, was identified as the 31-year-old Private Luglen Peacock from the Eastern Cape. He appeared in the Musina Magistrate's Court on Tuesday and his case was postponed to Tuesday, 28 September, for a formal bail application.