Cross-border crime syndicates are terrorising communities living in the South African province of KwaZulu-Natal near the border with Mozambique and although the government says its interventions are working, the affected communities say they are not enough.

The communities are under siege by organized gangs who are targeting vehicles, mostly four-wheel drives. As the criminals become more brazen, the numbers of stolen cars are increasing drastically.

In just three months, 48 vehicles have been taken. Although 16 cars were eventually recovered by police, residents say the robberies are continuing.

“At least eight vehicles pass through here a day and of greater concern to the community is that the relationship with the police it is not good. The community doesn’t trust the police as some are even seen assisting these criminals,” alleged one resident, Induna Joseph Tembe.

Despite additional deployments of police along the border, residents claim some police are involved in crime syndicates. “When we know who the criminals are and we report them, the next thing you find is that the criminal will get to know that you have given information about them and the question then is, how do they know?” asks one resident.

All that stands as a protective measure between the two countries is an old wire fence.

The government says the communities need to get involved in the fight against crime. “People think that security is the responsibility of the police, most people think that way, they point fingers but forget to say that they too need to be part of the solution,” says Police Minister Nathi Nhleko.

However, residents say the gangs are well-resourced and heavily-armed and only police or the army can take them on.