Cross-border crime in northern KZN a problem for locals

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The far northern reaches of KwaZulu-Natal, bordering Mozambique, are administered by the largely rural uMkhanyakude district municipality where cross-border crime has locals “living in fear” according to Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) parliamentarian Liezl van der Merwe.

The Mozambique border has a single port of entry (POE) – Kosi Bay – where Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi has it “33 trained border guards” have been stationed since July last year.

Replying to a Parliamentary question from Van der Merwe, he listed some “successes” in the 12-month deployment to date. They include 360 undocumented migrants arrested; two stolen vehicles, both Toyotas (a Conquest and a Prado), recovered; three bales of second-hand clothing confiscated; stolen property listed as three mobile phones, four laptops and a gearbox (no detail as to whether automotive or industrial) also recovered, and two suspects arrested, one with R73 000 worth of “lobsters and crayfish” and the other for “possession of human tissue (belly button)”.

On what she sees as widespread crime in uMkhanyakude, including the murder of three local anti-crime activists, Van der Merwe wanted the Minister to elaborate on combatting cross-border crime in the area.

His written reply reads, in part: “In relation to the curbing of crime, the border guards execute their border functions in that border environment in collaboration and co-ordination with other security structures that includes the SA Defence Force (borderline) and with the SA Police Service (SAPS) in the declared ports of entry (sic)”.

What Motsoaledi has as the SADF is in fact a company of soldiers from an infantry unit (SA Army Regular Force) or Reserve Force landward force regiment – both part of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) – deployed for six month stretches as part of the Operation Corona border protection tasking. The soldiers operate from bush bases, reporting to a tactical headquarters. Their work centres around foot and vehicle patrols, observation points and on road stop and searches. Intelligence from locals and other sources sees regular civil/military interaction with police and the fledgling Border Management Authority (BMA) all involved.

The military side of border protection in uMkhanyakude sees soldiers in the bush, as it were, with border guards at and in close proximity to the Kosi Bay POE.

In June and July, soldiers on the Eswatini and Mozambique borders of South Africa’s KwaZulu-Natal netted 13 illegal immigrants, recovered vehicles valued at R2.3 million and confiscated contraband, including drugs, worth almost R2.4 million.