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Compiled by Devina Haripersad

Asset forfeiture order granted in MTN and Vodacom’s stolen cellphone tower batteries case

The vehicle was seized as it was considered an instrumentality used in the commission of the alleged crime.

The Hawks in East London recently received an asset forfeiture order related to a crime involving stolen cellphone tower batteries belonging to telecommunication giants Vodacom and MTN.

According to reports, the incident dates back to 14 October 2022 when information was received about a Nissan Tiida allegedly transporting stolen batteries in the East London area.

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Police spokesperson Captain Yolisa Mgolodela said in response to the tip-off members of the Serious Organised Crime Investigation sprang into action and stopped the vehicle.

Owner of vehicle present

“Two occupants, identified as the driver Luvo Manzi (20) and owner of the vehicle Thabo Mukambachaza (26), were present in the car.

“During the search, six stolen batteries were discovered in the rear seat. An additional battery was found in the boot,” she said.

She confirmed Manzi and Mukambachaza were arrested on the spot, but later released on bail.

“The vehicle was seized as it was considered an instrumentality used in the commission of the alleged crime.

“After further investigation, it was confirmed that the batteries belonged to Vodacom and MTN, with a combined value of R178,000,” she added.

Asset forfeiture

The case was then referred to the Priority Crime Specialised Investigation unit of the Hawks in East London for asset forfeiture investigation.

With the assistance of the Asset Forfeiture Unit of the National Prosecution Agency (NPA), a preservation order was secured, leading to the recent granting of the forfeiture order by the East London High Court.

The criminal matter against Luvo Manzi and Thabo Mukambachaza has been scheduled for 26 July 2023 in the East London Magistrate’s Court, where it will be transferred to the Regional Court for trial.

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In a separate incident on Thursday, the Hawks in Pretoria arrested four suspects aged 29, 33, 37 and 44 for theft and possession of suspected stolen motor vehicle parts worth an estimated R1.1 million.

Police spokesperson, Colonel Katlego Mogale, said the Hawks were alerted by the Ford Motor Vehicle Company of South Africa (FMCSA) to an incident involving a potential engine theft.

“Subsequent investigations revealed the alleged theft took place within the FMCSA premises, where perpetrators used a courier company’s truck to load approximately 36 engines onto racks.

“Once the truck was loaded, it departed from the premises without adhering to proper protocols.


“Instead, it headed to Charles Leyds Street in Eersterus, as instructed by the forklift instructor.

“However, upon arrival at the drop-off location, the racks and forklift were found empty, with the engines mysteriously missing.

“Surprisingly, two elderly individuals discovered on the premises claimed ignorance about the cargo,” Mogale said.

As a result of the investigation, four suspects were apprehended on suspicion of possessing stolen property. Among the arrested were two FMCSA security personnel, a mechanical repair shop owner, and the truck driver.

All four individuals are set to appear in the Pretoria Magistrates’ Court on Monday, 24 July 2023.

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