The exchange of gunfire between South African soldiers and Mozambican border police at the weekend has escalated to the point of “a high level delegation” seeking answers, according to the National Defence Force.
A statement issued in the name of Brigadier General Mafi Mgobozi, Director: Corporate Communications of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), has it that the unnamed delegation will meet Mozambican authorities to “further investigate” the incident, which some media are reporting claimed the lives of two Mozambican police. No indication is given of exactly who the South Africans, presumably senior officers, will meet with or if discussions will include possible information sharing on patrols and routes to prevent future misunderstandings.
The despatch of the delegation comes on the heels on a team sent to the Ndumo area of KwaZulu-Natal on Monday after the Sunday shooting incident with no wounds or injuries reported by 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment currently deployed on Operation Corona border protection in northern KwaZulu-Natal. That team, according to Mgobozi, returned to Pretoria and reported to South Africa’s top soldier, SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke.
Military analyst Helmoed Heitman has a different view. He is reported by Johannesburg daily The Citizen as saying: “It could be either of the two sides was rogue, because the SANDF is not unsusceptible to bribes and if Mozambican police were paid well they would not be vulnerable to bribes. It could also have been that because they patrol the same area there was no co-ordination and they blundered into each other in the bush”.
He gave another possible scenario of an ambush set by the South Africans for criminal elements into which the Mozambicans walked.
His advice to the command structure of the national defence force for answers: “Send a senior officer to ask because it probably happened at corporal level. Sitting around a table over coffee is not going to bring answers”.
A board of inquiry has been convened to investigate the incident. Unconfirmed reports say two Mozambican border guards were killed. AFP reported that Mozambican officials said the incident occurred in the Ponta de Ouro area. The shooting incident apparently happened in the ‘no-man’s land’ between the South African and Mozambican borders.
According to the national defence force statement, in the effort to safeguard South Africa’s borders “the SANDF is determined to do everything within the law to execute its border control responsibility and ensure South Africa’s borders are secured”.
“The huge task to keep our country’s borders secure is a task we execute in concert with fellow Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries and both local and Mozambican authorities are working hand in glove to seal SADC borders against the illicit trafficking of drugs, weapons and contraband.”