Classified as a non-essential product, the trade of cigarettes was brought to a halt with the start of the nationwide lockdown.
However, while the ban on cigarette sales is still in effect, it seems smokers are still able to secure their nicotine fix through the illicit cigarette market.
On May 15, police recovered illicit cigarettes worth over a million rand during a joint operation in the Musina policing area.
This follows the Police, SANDF and traffic officers receiving information about suspects transporting illicit cigarettes. A roadblock was set up and the suspected vehicles were observed coming from Tshipise, towards the N1 road.
The four vehicles, a Mazda sedan, Nissan panel van, Toyota Quantum and a Chrysler SUV were then stopped at different intervals.
According to a police statement, the Nissan bakkie reportedly failed to stop. It allegedly sped off and turned into the nearby gravel road.
A car chase ensued until the driver lost control and collided into a fence. The suspects then got out and ran into the nearby bushes.
Meanwhile, the Toyota Quantum also failed to stop, with both the driver and passenger jumping from the moving vehicle to escape. The vehicle ultimately hit a pole and came to a halt.
The Mazda vehicle was seen making a U-turn to try and evade arrest, but police gave chase. The suspects abandoned the vehicle, also fleeing into nearby bushes. The last vehicle, a Chrysler was also abandoned by the suspects.
During the search, police discovered an estimate R 1 454 428 worth of cigarettes in three of the vehicles. The Chrysler SUV did not contain any cigarettes but is suspected to be stolen.
The Provincial Commissioner in Limpopo, Lieutenant General Nneke Ledwaba commended those involved in the operation, which resulted in the confiscation of these illicit cigarettes and motor vehicles.
Police investigations into the matter, as well as the origin and destination of the recovered cigarettes is underway.
If anyone has information on the suspect, contact Colonel Mamuhoyi on 082 414 6683. Information can also be given to the Crime Stop number 08600 10111 or any police station.