By Rex Mphisa
THE SOUTH African Police Service (Saps) has arrested three Zimbabwe-bound men found with a R7 million load of the endangered abalone sea fish destined for Zimbabwe.
The men were intercepted in Polokwane when the vehicle that was carrying the fish boxes left Polokwane International Airport heading towards Beitbridge Border Post for Zimbabwe.
“The Intelligence-led joint operation comprising the Provincial Endangered Species Unit, the Polokwane Crime Intelligence Unit, the Western Cape Provincial Crime Intelligence Unit, the Polokwane K9 Unit and the Saps Polokwane International Airport, has intercepted a possible crime syndicate which was transporting abalone in the City of Polokwane last night on Friday the 31st January 2020,” Saps spokesman for Limpopo province Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe said in a statement.
“This interception was a result of information about a grey NP200 bakkie (small truck) travelling from Polokwane to Beitbridge port of entry.”
He said a car matching the same description was then spotted by these members in one of the streets, pulled off the road and then searched, leading to the discovery of 37 boxes of abalone with an estimated value of R7 million.
“Subsequently, three occupants were arrested. The origin and actual destination of these suspects and the abalone will be determined by the ongoing police investigations,” Ngoepe said.
Abalone, which is a protected species in SA, is a delicacy replete on the shores of South Africa.
Together with halitosis parva and spadicea, abalone are marine snails that are associated with rocky sea areas.
It is an economically important species and is highly utilised and has a high market value. It is therefore one of the most sought-after invertebrates of South Africa.
The fish has a huge market in seafood restaurants in Zimbabwe and the region and has particularly struck a lot of interest with the increased arrivals of Chinese nationals
“The suspects will appear before the Polokwane Magistrates’ Court soon for possession of endangered species (abalone),” Ngoepe said.
Meanwhile, at Beitbridge police are allegedly blocking Ushe Tasara, shot by police last week, from filing a report for attempted murder.
Tasara, who was a crew member on a minibus travelling from Beitbridge to Zvishavane, was shot at Tshapfuce by police who disappeared into the bush leaving their victim.
Some passengers on the minibus during the shooting said the incident was sparked by the minibus crew’s failure to give a R300 bribe to the police who forcibly boarded the minibus and ended up driving the vehicle during as the bribe demand escalated.
“My client’s (Tasara) report for attempted murder was rejected by the police who say it’s a counter report and invalid, but we are happy that the magistrate has ordered for a full report on circumstances surrounding the shooting,” Jabulani Mzinyathi, the lawyer for the shooting victim, said.
Mzinyathi said his firm was in possession of two spent cartridges picked by relatives of the victim hit on the thigh but was lucky not to be hit on the bone.
Police last week said Tasara, who once worked as a driver at a local daily publication, had a firearm which was yet to be recovered, but Mzinyathi said this was a baseless misrepresentation by people caught on the wrong side of the law.