Zimbabwe, a Hub For Stolen, South African Vehicles

May 5, 2024
Zimbabwe growing in popularity for stolen South African cars Image SAPS Limpopo | Report Focus News
Zimbabwe growing in popularity for stolen South African cars. Image: SAPS Limpopo

Zimbabwe is Becoming a Hotspot for Stolen South African Cars Amid Mounting Concerns Over Cross-Border Smuggling. Criminal syndicates are exploiting the porous border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, resulting in an alarming increase in the smuggling of stolen vehicles northward. The prevalence of this trend has been extensively documented by The South African, shedding light on the proliferation of illegal activities in towns bordering Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

A recent report by She Corresponds Africa has unveiled a disturbing trend of collusion between criminal elements, law enforcement agencies, and the Central Vehicle Registry (CVR). These groups are working together to facilitate the passage of stolen vehicles across the border and selling them to unsuspecting buyers with forged paperwork.

According to the report, the National Prosecuting Authority regularly brings forward approximately three cases per week against Zimbabwean motorists found in possession of stolen South African cars. In 2022 alone, authorities seized over 200 high-end vehicles believed to have been smuggled from South Africa.

One of the favoured smuggling routes is over the dried-up Limpopo River, where vehicles with high ground clearance, such as SUVs and bakkies, are preferred due to their ability to traverse rough terrain. However, luxury sedans with lower clearance often get stuck, requiring inventive methods such as using sleds pulled by donkeys to navigate through difficult passages.

Recent law enforcement efforts have led to the apprehension of key suspects involved in the smuggling operations. Among them is Raymond Tshabalala (28), believed to be a ringleader in the Limpopo-Zimbabwe smuggling syndicate. Additionally, nine members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) suspected of complicity in the smuggling ring were arrested in 2021, underscoring the scale and complexity of the problem.

Local residents living near the Limpopo River crossing report witnessing as many as three stolen South African cars being dragged across the river daily. What’s more concerning is the apparent collusion of insiders within the Zimbabwean CVR, who expedite the necessary paperwork for these vehicles upon their arrival in Bulawayo or Harare. Obtaining new licenses or Vehicle Identification Numbers (VINs), often sourced from written-off vehicles of similar specifications, can reportedly cost as little as $100.

stolen South African cars

Despite recent successes in recovering stolen vehicles, challenges persist in combating the widespread theft and smuggling of cars from South Africa. The South African Police Service (SAPS) reported significant achievements, including the recovery of 64 stolen vehicles and 140 arrests following a year-long cross-border task force collaboration with Mozambique. However, the sheer volume of car theft remains alarming, with SAPS recording 5,511 hijacked or stolen cars in the last three months alone, averaging 1,800 incidents per month or 60 per day. Clearly, more concerted efforts are needed to stem the flow of stolen South African cars out of the country and disrupt the activities of criminal syndicates operating across borders.