South Africa says it is ‘keen’ to know how supposedly protected explosives such as detonators and plastic cartridges found their way out of Zimbabwe to unscrupulous citizens who, in turn, smuggle them into the neighbouring country.
This follows an increase in the number of cases of arms smuggling into South Africa by Zimbabweans keen on making a quick buck selling explosives to miners and possibly, robbers in that country.
In a telephone interview on Monday, South African Limpopo Provincial Corporate Communications Officer, Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi, said the increasing number of explosives smuggling cases was worrying as it was a matter of state security for both Zimbabwe and South Africa.
Last Wednesday, 14 Zimbabweans were arrested in Musina after illegally crossing the Limpopo river, and were found in possession of 100 detonators and cartridges worth $350 000.
On June 5, a Musina magistrate fined Sibonginkosi Mhlakanipiswa (41) from Bulawayo R20 000 for smuggling 80 detonators into that country through Beitbridge.
In December last year, a Zimbabwean woman, Elita Sibanda (23), was arrested at Beitbridge border post as she tried to smuggle 100 detonators and 26 plastic cartridges in a bus. Sibanda said she bought them at a shop in Harare.
“It seems the explosives have become a gem as the cases are increasing. It is,however, a serious matter as state security for both Zimbabwe and South Africa is at stake because we don’t know where they emanate from and where they are going to,” he said.
Mulaudzi also said they suspected the detonators and the cartridges were being used in criminal activities in South Africa such as ATM bombing and illegal mining.
“We suspect that these explosives are being sold to criminals who use them to bomb ATMs during robberies and also to illegal miners in disused mines where they use dynamites,” he said.
Mulaudzi said even with interrogation, South African police had failed to extract information on their source from the Zimbabwean suspects, leading them to suspecting that there was a ‘kingpin’ supplying them.
“We have tried to interrogate these people but we have so far failed to make a breakthrough regarding their source,” said Mulaudzi.
Contacted for comment, the ministry of Defence’s public relations officer, Overson Mugwizi, asked to email the questions but had not responded at the time of going to press.