Image of an unroadworthy vehicle
The unroadworthy vehicle impounded by the GTM Traffic Department.

Illegal fishing at Tzaneen Dam (Fanie Botha) using kilometres worth of nets has long been a battle for the local fishing fraternity and nature conservation alike. With the arrival of Thabo Ramopai at Jetty 3 last year, the fight swung in the favour of the good guys with Thabo working closely with local law enforcement to remove an estimated 90% of the illegal fishermen who live in the bushes next to the dam.

Since taking over the lease of the Jetty 3 facilities last year, Thabo has removed more illegal nets from Tzaneen Dam on his own, than any organization in the decade before him. Two weeks ago he cleared an estimated five kilometres worth of illegal nets from the waters.

But these efforts seem to fall short however as one illegal fisherman in particular, has shown no intention of exiting this profitable business venture.

The unroadworthy vehicle impounded by the GTM Traffic Department.

The man known only as “Godfrey” is regarded by the local security companies as the “Teflon Kingpin” of the illegal fishermen as he has been confronted on numerous occasions only to evade arrest and return to his hunting grounds a few days later.

On Monday this week a visibly unroadworthy vehicle was hidden from view behind the bushes in the centre island of the two bridges. The vehicle seemed abandoned, and a motorist contacted a local security company who patrolled the area. One of their reaction units stopped at the vehicle and conducted an inspection. No driver was noticed in the area and the vehicle was presumed to have been abandoned so the Greater Tzaneen Municipality’s Traffic department was contacted.

“Local security stopped to check out the suspicious vehicle and discovered that not only had the vehicle’s license disk expired four years ago in 2020, but it was in no way roadworthy,” our source explained.

“When the vehicle was searched a troubling quantity of homemade fishing nets, and a large panga was found in the trunk along with a rubber tube resembling the ones used by the illegal fishermen on the dam. The GTM Traffic Department was informed, and they arrived at the site with a lowbed to tow the vehicle to their pound.”

But according to our source, the story did not end there.

“So the vehicle was impounded at the municipal pound as is the usual legal procedure. But then apparently “Godfrey” strolled into the pound with his keys and simply drove the wreck of a vehicle off the pound as though he owned it. Just like that.”

According to South African law, a vehicle may be impounded by the Traffic police for a number of transgressions including being unroadworthy and parking offences. Once the vehicle was impounded there is a process that needs to be followed and then there is a fee to be paid to have the vehicle released. Should the vehicle be unroadworthy and have an expired license, it would have to first be put through the test and the outstanding licensing fees should then be settled before the vehicle is released.

Our source also revealed that “Godfrey” was spotted a short while after the vehicle was towed away, walking along the twin bridges. We have sent an inquiry to the GTM spokesperson for clarity on the processes that need to be followed regarding impounded vehicles, but at the time of going to print we had not received any feedback.