South African police have arrested a bus crew employed by Citiliner for smuggling 2kgs of ivory worth R1,6 million into that country through the Beitbridge Border Post. The suspects, who are all Zimbabweans, were arrested on Sunday night on the South African side while transporting four elephant tusks.
Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said James Nyirenda (41) and Langton Saka (40) were arrested during routine checks.
He said the ivory was hidden underneath some luggage in two of the bus' compartments. Brig Mulaudzi said the duo appeared before a Musina magistrate where charges against Saka were later withdrawn after plea.
He said Nyirenda was convicted for smuggling and sentenced to four years imprisonment with an option of paying R8 000 in fine.
"The bus was travelling to Johannesburg from Bulawayo in Zimbabwe with the tusks," said Brig Mulaudzi.
"When the crew arrived at the South African border they went through all the immigration and customs formalities without declaring their loot.
"The case was discovered by alert police officers at the port of entry during routine searches. They found the four tusks hidden in two of the compartments resulting in the arrest of Nyirenda and Saka."
Brig Mulaudzi said the tusks had been chopped from elephants with an axe.
He said they managed to establish that two of the tusks were from one elephant, while two others were from two different animals.
"Our anti-smuggling team is on high alert and we want to strongly warn those involved in such activities that we will descend heavily on them," said Brig Mulaudzi.
It is understood that detectives from the border control unit are also investigating the source of the ivory in Zimbabwe.
"We are still conducting investigations, though we strongly believe that the drivers could be linked to the cyanide case where 106 jumbos were poisoned by poachers in Hwange National Park," said one of the detectives close to investigations.
The incident comes shortly after the anti- smuggling squad burst a R32 million drug curtail involving Zimbabweans, Tanzanians and Congolese.