Three Zimbabwe nationals who were part of a gang of 16 arrested for stealing Transnet rails, transformers, and palisades were remanded in custody after they appeared in the Middelburg Magistrate’s Court on Tuesday.
Maxwell Muchenje (39), Maxwell Dube (32), and Witness Mbabo (27) – all Zimbabwean Nationals – and 13 others were arrested at a scrap yard on Monday.
Only two of the gang were locals the other foreign nationals who were arrested for illegal immigration produced valid permits in court and they were released.
All 16 suspects were arrested by members of the Hawks Serious Organised Crime Investigation team Mpumalanga together with Transnet Investigators on Monday for possession of suspected stolen properties.
The gang of daring scrap metal thieves – two locals and 14 foreign nationals – were caught by the police with five trucks loaded with railway tracks, transformers and palisade stolen from Santa Dullstroom, Mpumalanga.
South Africa’s elite crime busters – the Hawks – caught wind of the theft. Together with Transnet investigators, the Hawks rounded up the suspects aged between 35 and 45 years.
The gang was arrested during an intelligence-driven operation on Monday at Vaalbank in Middelburg.
The Hawks said they were informed about the theft of railway tracks from Santa Dullstroom.
The daring thieves had loaded their loot onto five trucks and were headed towards Middelburg.
The Hawks and Transnet investigators tracked the thieves to Mashcor Scrap Metal Shop, where they found four trucks still loaded with railway tracks.
“During further investigation, the fifth truck loaded with transformers and palisade which were positively identified by Transnet officials arrived,” said the Hawks spokesperson, Captain Dineo Lucy Sekgotodi.
The railway tracks were stolen from a decommissioned line while the transformers and palisade were stolen from what was an operational substation.
“The 16 suspects of which 14 are foreign nationals were arrested and charged for possession of suspected stolen property, theft, and damaging of essential infrastructure,” said Sekgotodi.
The owner of the scrap metal shop was also arrested.
The remanded Zimbabwe nationals will next appear in court on 7 September 2021 for a formal bail application.
They face serious charges related to damaging essential infrastructure.