Rangers operating in the Kruger National Park had to put aside their anti-poaching and wildlife management duties on Thursday when they came across a group of smugglers attempting to enter South Africa from Mozambique.
The rangers were patrolling the border fence between the two countries when they spotted a large group of around 20 men illegally crossing into the park.
When instructed by the rangers to stop, the group attempted to flee the scene.
Rangers arrested seven of the group of men
Police spokesperson, Brigadier Leonard Hlathi, said seven of the men were able to be apprehended by the rangers and arrested on the scene.
Photo credit: SAPS
"The men were found in possession of illicit cigarettes [and] liquor, as well as skin-whitening creams wrapped in black plastic bags," he said.
He added that the estimated value of the items seized is about R78 000.
Suspects charged with a range of alleged crimes
"Police were notified about the incident and they then charged the suspects with several cases including possession of counterfeit cigarettes, liquor, contravention of the Illegal Immigration Act, as well as trespassing," Hlathi noted.
Photo credit: SAPS
He said the SAPS Provincial Commissioner in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma, had lauded the Kruger Park rangers for their vigilance in apprehending the suspects and recovering the illicit goods.
"We are delighted to have such men and women who are eager to fight crime," Zuma stated.
Smuggling from Mozambique is an ongoing problem
The arrested suspects are expected to appear at the Bushbuckridge Magistrate's Court on Monday.
Smuggling of goods from Mozambique into South Africa remains an ongoing problem. Smuggled items include drugs, wildlife, alcohol, fuel and even people-trafficking schemes, according to Enact.
Enact is a body that works with Interpol and the Institute for Security Studies to enhance Africa's response to transnational organised crime.