Crime levels in Umkhanyakude District have reached alarming proportions with cross-border crime, particularly car thefts between South Africa and Mozambique having reached alarming proportions.
This has prompted the Community Safety Portfolio Committee, under the leadership of the committee chairperson, Hon. Bheki Ntuli, to visit the district recently with an aim of holding meetings with communities, local leadership and members of the South African Police Service (SAPS) to find solutions to the scourge of crime in that part of the province.
The committee started off its oversight work by visiting an illegal South Africa/Mozambique border post, notoriously known as Gate 6, where most cars stolen from South Africa are smuggled to Mozambique to be sold to crime syndicates.
At Gate 6, the committee held a meeting with commanders of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) who patrol that part of the border and SAPS top brass where they received a full briefing on the crime situation along Gate 6.
Committee members were informed that both the SANDF and SAPS lacked necessary resources to fight cross-border crime especially stealing of vehicles from South Africa. There were few members deployed along the border with insufficient equipment for intelligence gathering and that there was no proper fence along the border. That made it easy for criminals to remove the fence and smuggle vehicles across Mozambique. Even Mozambican people easily cross the fence to South Africa without any documentation.
The committee later held a public meeting at Umhlabuyalingana Municipality which was attended by local leadership including Amakhosi, councillors, members of CPFs, SAPS and other stakeholders. The meeting deliberated on a number of crime fighting initiatives and strategies which were aimed at bringing the levels of crime down.
It was noted that there was a lack of co-operation from the Mozambican authorities to stop cross-border vehicle theft once stolen vehicles reach the Mozambican side. Attempts to allow South Africa to build a base inside Mozambique have been obstructed in the past.
Committee members were unanimous in that there is a need for a high-level political intervention between South Africa and Mozambique that will find a lasting solution to the issue of cross-border crime. A bilateral meeting between governments of South Africa and Mozambique should be convened to resolve cross-border crime.
The committee also visited other police stations in Umkhanyakude including Mbazwana to get first-hand information on the issue of crime and how those police stations were dealing with it. On the last day, the committee visited Hlabisa police station and later held a public meeting with the community and other stakeholders. Committee members were informed that crime such as business robberies was on the rise in Hlabisa. The local police station lacks basic resources such as working telephones to enable the public to report crime as it happens.