Two Zimbabweans arrested last week together with three other people on charges of smuggling cigarettes into South Africa, have been further remanded in custody to tomorrow for formal bail application.
The group was arrested in two separate incidents following a high speed chase with the police near Polokwane in Limpopo Province.
Nomusa Mguni (34) and Walter Ndlovu (30) were arrested in the Sebayeng area on May 23 for illegal possession of alcohol and suspected illicit cigarettes.
In a statement yesterday, Limpopo police spokesperson Brigadier Motlafela Mojapelo said the two appeared before a Mankweng Magistrates Court on Friday afternoon.
"The woman who was also travelling with a minor child was arrested in the company of a 30-year-old man driving towards Gauteng Province," he said.
"They were carrying an assortment of illicit cigarettes and alcohol when they sped off from a roadblock along the N1 highway before they were cornered by traffic police and the crime prevention police officers."
The suspects apparently sped towards a gravel road that connects the N1 road and R81 from Polokwane, and the security officers pursuing the vehicle called for backup from the police at Sebayeng, resulting in them being cornered at the Solomondale intersection.
Their vehicle was searched and the illicit cigarettes and alcohol were found stashed inside, resulting in the two being arrested.
The demand for Zimbabwe's tobacco and related products by other countries has seen the establishment of well-orchestrated syndicates that facilitate their illegal trade.
South Africa has much higher duties on tobacco than Zimbabwe, so legal cigarettes are a lot more expensive than in Zimbabwe.
This has for decades tempted smugglers and South Africans to buy cheaper cigarettes on the black market, with the smugglers able to undercut the South African prices and still cover smuggling costs.
The South African lockdown made the black market more lucrative.
The brands mainly smuggled from Zimbabwe include Pacific, Remington Gold, Kingsgate, Madison, Mega, Dullahs, Branson and Servilles.
Statistics from the South African Revenue Services (SARS) show that 82 689 043 kg of tobacco were imported from Zimbabwe between January 2010 until March 2015.
These include imports of cigars, cheroots, cigarillos and cigarettes.