Johannesburg – Three men who were allegedly using Covid-19 branded vehicles and pretending to be involved in the fight against the virus were arrested for trying to smuggle dagga into the country.

They were arrested in Mpumalanga on Monday and allegations are they were trying to get the dagga from Eswatini.

Spokesperson for the Mpumalanga Police Brigadier Leonard Hlathi said the men, aged between 31 and 35 were arrested at Ekulindeni in the early hours of Monday and were using Covid-19 as a ploy to cover their criminals activities.

“According to the report, a team of police officials received information about two vehicles which were branded with Covid-19 insignia allegedly participating in criminal activities. They (police) followed up on the information and noticed a VW Polo Sedan as well as a Toyota Hilux Bakkie, which both matched the description given.

“Upon stopping the said vehicles, police found three occupants pretending to be Covid-19 officials on deployment. They then found fake permits inside and further discovered that the suspects were attempting to cross the border with the intention to collect dagga from a neighboring country.”

Hlathi said the suspects were arrested and charged with contravening the Disaster Management regulations as they had also moved between provinces of Limpopo and Mpumalanga. The vehicles were also confiscated for further investigation.

“The management of the SAPS has welcomed the arrest of the three and have sent a stern warning to those who think they will take chances during this lockdown period that law enforcement agencies will deal decisively with them.”

Provincial Commissioner of the SAPS in Mpumalanga, Lieutenant General Mondli Zuma, has indicated that the trick by the suspects of using Covid-19 insignia on their vehicles to cover criminal their activities had failed as  the astuteness of the police was magnificent.

The men were expected to appear at the Chief Albert Luthuli Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday and Hlathi said they could not rule out the possibility of adding charges relating to fraud as the  suspects impersonated Covid-19 officials.

The Star

By Botho Molosankwe