Soldiers confiscate R6 million plus worth of contraband from Zimbabwean smugglers

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Zimbabweans seemingly rule the roost when it comes to moving illegal goods, be it drugs or contraband, into South Africa.

Evidence of this comes from the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) in the May statistics for the national border protection tasking – Operation Corona.

R6 million plus worth of unspecified contraband, usually cigarettes, liquor, pharmaceuticals, fake branded clothing and footwear, was confiscated by soldiers patrolling the 225 km South Africa/Zimbabwe border in the Limpopo province.

The 496 km South Africa/Mozambique border, abutting the KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga borders, provided soldiers detached to border protection duty with a R2.8 million haul of drugs. As has become SOP (standard operating procedure) with Joint Ops reports, amounts and types of narcotic are not specified with dagga usually the largest contributor by volume.

Drugs were also confiscated from Basotho (R5 000) and Zimbabwean (R11 208) smugglers in May.

The arrival of colder weather in the southern African region did not seem to affect the flow of illegal immigrants into South Africa. In April, 461 foreign nationals were prevented by soldiers from continuing their illegal journeys to South Africa’s economic heartland in search of a better life. This is 286 less than the 747 accosted by soldiers in May with by far the majority – 408 – Zimbabweans. Next highest were Mozambicans (153) followed by the same number of Basotho accessing South Africa via the Eastern Cape and Free State provinces.

A number of political parties contesting the recent national and provincial elections gave border protection a priority rating in their manifestos.

One was Gayton McKenzie’s Patriotic Alliance which maintained “an expanded military” will secure South African borders and “prevent the constant seepage of deported illegal migrants merely re-entering the country”.

Pieter Groenewald’s Freedom Front Plus (FF+) wants “border integrity restored” in its manifesto. By way of explanation the document notes: “’Soft’ borders result in an influx of people when economic pressure increases elsewhere in Africa. It also means domestic goods, such as rhino horn and foreign goods, such as firearms and drugs, can move across our borders. It also makes it easier for ruthless traders to avoid tariffs and levies that are implemented to protect the local economy”.

The Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) manifesto has it the “failure of the State to manage migration” is a national crisis. Illegal immigrants, according to the KwaZulu-Natal headquartered party, are lawbreakers posing “a threat to the safety and security of the State”.

The Democratic Alliance does not mention border security in its manifesto, while the ANC aims to improve border security through its general crime-fighting approaches. The ruling party also aims to locate refugee and asylum centres close to border posts, regulate the employment of foreign workers in line with the National Labour Migration Policy, give preference to South African job-seekers and act against employment and exploitation of undocumented persons; simplify visa applications; and use technology to modernise systems to prevent fraud and bogus documents.