The single largest internal deployment of the national defence force will, for the foreseeable future, continue to be the border protection tasking under the Operation Corona banner.
The by-now familiar refrain of tight budgets and difficult economic times from the powers that be at the Department of Defence (DoD) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) continue and are probably the major contributor to a zero increase in the number of soldiers deployed on border protection.
If original deployment and funding plans were successful South Africa would currently find its 4 471 km of land border patrolled by 22 companies, each with a manpower component of around 130. Instead, there are 15 companies deployed along land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
As the current DoD annual performance plan notes: “Due to the budget reduction, the SANDF will not be able to honour the governmental requirement of rolling out 22 sub-units (companies) over the 2019 Medium-Term Expenditure Framework”.
As with other areas and other entities under the defence umbrella Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s department “is considering new methods of fulfilling its border safeguarding function in the context of a declining departmental budget and commensurate resource allocation”.
This has seen what the annual performance plans terms a draft Border Safeguarding Strategy developed to enable securing of South Africa’s air, land and maritime borders. Finalisation of the DoD Border Safeguarding Strategy will be aligned with the National Border Management Authority Strategy.
In addition to the land border, the national defence force is also tasked with protecting an sir border measuring 7 640 km and maritime border of 3 924 km. An added responsibility for those tasked with maritime protection duties – the SA Air Force and SA Navy – is keeping South Africa’s more than one and a half million square kilometre economic exclusion zone (EEZ) safe from pirates, illegal anglers, pollution spills and other maritime crimes and offences.