Several cellphone tower solar panels and batteries believed to have been stolen from around the Nelson Mandela Bay area were confiscated after police pulled over a bus travelling to Zimbabwe.

The bust came after police pulled over a bus pulling a large trailer and found the solar panels in the compartment under the bus, with 13 tower batteries in the trailer.

After the bust, the 41-year-old Zimbabwean national arrested allegedly tried to bribe police officials with R17,000 in cash to let him go.

Police estimate that the total value of items recovered is more than R100,000.

Police spokesperson Captain Andre Beetge said the discovery was made at about 3.30pm on Wednesday.

“The bus was seen in the Colchester area, leaving the Bay.

“Police officials signalled to the driver to stop at the nearby Kinklebos police station for a standard random stop-and-search.

“The driver complied and stopped at the police station,” he said.

“On searching the bus, four very large solar panels were found in a compartment and 13 cellphone tower batteries in the trailer. All the goods are believed to have been stolen from several cellphone towers around the Bay area, as far as Rocklands.

“The passenger was arrested and during this process attempted to bribe the police official with R17,000 in cash. He faces additional charges of bribery and corruption.”

Asked where the bus was heading, Beetge confirmed that it was travelling to Zimbabwe.

In August, another three suspects were arrested when Kinkelbos police stopped a white Toyota Hilux bakkie, missing the back number plate, on the N2 near Colchester.

The men tried to run away after being pulled over.

Police found eight cellphone tower back-up batteries and equipment used to break into the towers, such as an angle grinder and crowbar.

Also in August, Gauteng community safety MEC Sizakele Nkosi-Malobane welcomed the arrest of three alleged syndicate members for stealing batteries from cellphone towers belonging to MTN and Vodacom.

The three were arrested in Garsfontein‚ Pretoria East, with 16 Vodacom batteries and 24 MTN batteries, allegedly stolen from Carletonville.

Nkosi-Malobane said the syndicate was stealing batteries from cellphone towers and selling them to neighbouring countries.

In June, 10 Vodacom cellphone tower batteries were recovered after a shoot-out with Port Elizabeth police.

Four men attempted to speed away in a white VW Golf, leading to a car chase and shoot-out.

The vehicle collided with a wooden lamppost and all four suspects got out and allegedly started shooting at the police.

One of the men was arrested on the scene, while the other three escaped.

Four cellphone tower batteries were found inside the car and another six batteries hidden in the bushes nearby.

The man is due to appear in the Alexandria Magistrate’s Court on Friday, where he will be charged with possession of suspected stolen property and corruption.

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