A well-coordinated joint operation involving various government agencies and partners within the Buffalo City and Nelson Mandela Bay metros have crippled the illegal trade of contraband involving foreign nationals.

The main aim of Operation Pangela was to curb crimes against the economy and protect public health and safety. The operation conducted from 3 to 10 October 2023 focused on illicit pharmaceutical products, illegal immigration, environmental regulations, and community safety. Amongst the departments that were involved in the operation included the South African Police Service, Border Policing, Port of Entry police members, Crime Intelligence, Law Enforcement, Traffic Services, MEC for Community Safety, Environmental Health, South African Health Products Regulatory Authority (SAHPRA), Department of Home Affairs (Immigration Services), brand representatives, Transnet National Ports Authority and private security services.

During this period, a total of 76 illegal immigrants aged between 18 and 55-years-old were arrested and processed by Immigration Services. Most foreigners are suspected to be from Pakistan, Somalia, Ghana, and China.

Activities executed included the searching of vehicles, persons, premises as well as and vehicle stop and searches. A total of 13 business premises were visited and searched in both metros.

In Motherwell, 1976 illicit perfumes, 951 illegal mouse traps and 10 104 illegal skin lightening cream, and 31 744 sexual enhancing tablets with a total value of R5 508 390 were seized.

Also, in Gqeberha, the team seized expired sweets and biscuits, fake spices, fake Eno and Med lemon, fake cellphone chargers, boxes of mint tobacco, fake toothpaste items, Hooka charcoal and Gambling machines. The total value of these confiscations is R8 877 941.

In East London, three pharmacies were fined for operating without a registered pharmacist on site while dispensing scheduled drugs and controlled medicines. Additionally, illicit cigarettes and a wide range of other items, including pharmaceuticals (adcodol tablets, fake pregnancy test, prohibited schedule 5 and 6 medicines), cosmetics (skin whitening creams), and other products (fake sexual enhancing gels) and counterfeit cigarettes were confiscated by SAHPRA. The total estimation of all confiscated items is valued at R5 784 890.

Eastern Cape Provincial Commissioner, Lt Gen Nomthetheleli Mene applauded the excellent efforts of the multidisciplinary team. ‘The cooperation and dedication of these departments and agencies was critical to the success of the operation, and their efforts are recognized and commended. This is a perfect example of government’s commitment to protecting the public and enforcing the law. These products are not only illegal and unregulated, but they may also contain harmful ingredients and pose serious health risks to consumers. Our work is far from over and operations such as this must be prioritised and intensified as the distribution of these fake medicines and pharmaceuticals poses a serious threat to the health and safety of our citizens. These illegal activities are often linked to organised crime networks and by cracking down on them, we only protect the public but also disrupt criminal enterprises,’ added Lt Gen Mene.