Thupeyo Muleya Beitbridge Bureau
The bail hearing of seven South African soldiers accused of smuggling stolen vehicles from South Africa into Zimbabwe has been moved from Musina Magistrate court to Louis Trichardt.
Edward Lepokolo (48), Rapula Reuben Maidi (49), Bulelani Danti (30), Peter Thato Nemane (52), Thembani Mjelo(31), and two (2) Lance Corporals, Marks Funeka(49), and Ludwe Gwedashe (44) were arrested in June for crimes committed along the borderline between 2017 and 2019.
The gang was arrested by the neighbouring country’s organized crime police, the Hawks following a two-year intelligence operation code-named “Night Virgil’.
The soldiers would demand R15 000 per vehicle from the smugglers and the operation was a response to a scourge of vehicle theft and smuggling at the Zimbabwe and South Africa’s border.
The court proceedings were moved to another town after the department of Employment and Labour Occupational Health Safety (OHS) inspectorate prohibited the use of Musina Magistrate Court.
This follows a complaint raised by workers in June this year over the unsafe environment at the court building.
The Department’s Provincial Chief Director (Limpopo) Ms Johannah Machaba said the safety and health of workers and any other person who might be affected by activities that take place in the workplace were critical.
“Although the closure may lead to the delay of cases being processed, the health and safety of staff and clients is our priority,” said Ms Machaba.
She said the department had zero tolerance for non-compliance to the OHS Act 85 of 1993, its regulations and incorporated standards as amended.
The officials said their inspectors were not relenting and that they have closed a number of workplaces in the province.
The building, she said, will remain closed until the safety concerns are addressed.