The free flow of information on border protection successes from military provincial tactical headquarters continues unabated in contrast with answers to Parliamentary questions where “security sensitive” is invoked as a catch-all to not provide answers.
defenceWeb has reported on many Operation Corona border protection successes. These included confiscating millions of illegal cigarettes, dagga and other drugs as well as recovery of stolen vehicles on South Africa’s land borders with Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe as well as the apprehension of undocumented persons and stolen livestock.
While joint tactical headquarters are keen to highlight the successes of the 15 companies on the borders, clarity on Operation Corona activities is lacking at ministerial level, with Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula evading a number of questions due to ‘security concerns’. This was forcibly brought home to Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.
Earlier this year he used the Parliamentary questions facility, seen as integral to effective oversight by opposition parliamentarians, to ascertain further details regarding Operation Corona and asked Mapisa-Nqakula a number of questions.
This included deployment of motorcycle-mounted infantry soldiers as well as the performance and availability of the “mobility packages”, off-the-shelf Toyota Land Cruisers to replace Nissan 4×4 one tonners.
Marais was informed the information he sought in both instances related to “security sensitive operational matters” and response could be “disclosed in closed sessions” of either the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) or the Joint Standing Committee on Intelligence (JSCI).
He also asked Mapisa-Nqakula in March what the number of horseback mounted infantry deployed on the borders is, only to be told “the information required in this Parliamentary question relates to matters of Border Safeguarding and are security sensitive.”
Without giving away too much information to criminal elements, the Minister needs to be cognisant of the fact that the people of South Africa have a right to know how their defence force is being deployed in line with the military’s mandate of keeping South Africans safe and making sure they feel safe.