POLICE in Harare have intercepted a Malawi-registered truck carrying about 3 700kg of mbanje worth thousands of United States dollars. The truck driver has since been arrested while his other accomplices who were travelling in a local commuter omnibus and a taxi fled from the scene.
Harare provincial police spokesperson Inspector Tadius Chibanda said the truck and the 41 bags of mbanje weighing about 90kg each were recovered after a search of the Fuso truck that had been parked at an unidentified premise near ZFC in Marimba area early yesterday morning.
"Four of our officers who were on patrol were parking a private vehicle at a service station along Gleneagles Road at around 1am when they saw the truck being escorted by a commuter omnibus and a taxi," he said.
He said the officers became suspicious and followed the vehicles from a distance until it parked at the premises.
The officers confronted the suspects resulting in all of them speeding off from the premise leaving the driver of the truck. Some of them jumped over security walls.
Police found the suspects offloading the bags and it is believed that they wanted to transport them using the commuter omnibus and the taxi. The driver was arrested and further investigations revealed that the mbanje was smuggled into the country through the Nyamapanda Border Post.
It is believed that they duped the officials into believing that they were delivering Hessian bags used for tobacco packaging.
The mbanje was stashed under the bags and the truck was also destined for South Africa.
"It is not clear where these tobacco bags were destined for, but the mbanje was to be offloaded here since the truck was being escorted by these locally registered vehicles," Insp Chibanda said.
He said the matter was now being handled by CID drugs squad as investigations on the case continue.
Police have since launched a manhunt for the other suspects who are still at large.
In November last year, police in Mashonaland East intercepted a Harare-bound Malawi-registered bus at Nyamapanda Border Post and impounded 250kg of mbanje.
CID drugs squad swiftly reacted to a tip-off by the public that there were foreigners attempting to smuggle the drug into Zimbabwe through the border post.
Police detectives intercepted the Malawi-registered bus and found 25 bags of dagga weighing 10kg each that were tied to the chassis of the bus. The Premier Bus Company crew of Pynees Harem Magetsi (36), Ishmael Tomu Nyalapa (33) and Donnie Ntamdalika Ephraim Mansanampha (39) was subsequently arrested.
Another vehicle carrying 714kg of mbanje with a street value of US$140 000 overturned near Chivhu along the Harare-Masvingo highway in January last year, leading to the arrest of two suspects.
The dagga was stashed in 19 bags when the car overturned.