Drugs, guns, and stolen vehicles once again targeted by soldiers on Op Corona


South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers on Operation Corona border protection duty had another busy month in May, with millions of rands worth of stolen vehicles, drugs and illicit cigarettes confiscated along with stolen firearms.

Joint Operations Division’s Captain Moses Semono reports May as being yet another busy month for soldiers on border patrol duty in Mpumalanga. 9 South African Infantry Battalion (SAI) has been tasked with safeguarding the South Africa/Mozambique borderline, South Africa/Eswatini borderline, and Kruger National Park.

Semono last week reported that since 9 SAI started its deployment in mid-April, the unit has managed to recover seven vehicles worth R4 million, including five in May. These include a Ford Ranger double cab, a Toyota Hilux double cab found abandoned in a field near Mananga Village outside Macadamia, a 2009 model H100 Hyundai mini truck, a 1999 model Toyota Land Cruiser single cab, a Toyota station wagon (found abandoned at Mabuza filling station), a Range Rover and a VW Polo TSI.

“Most of these vehicles were recovered due to the swift response and reaction by 9 South African Infantry Battalion in collaboration with local the South African Police Services,” Semono reported. For instance, on 4 May at around 05:00, SANDF soldiers were busy conducting a vehicle check point when they were informed about a suspected stolen vehicle (Ford Ranger) that was driving towards them while being chased by the Tonga SA Police Service. The SA National Defence Force soldiers acted as a cut off group and the vehicle was stopped on the R571 road. The driver, Mozambican national Roberto Joao Matola, was arrested and the vehicle was impounded at the Tonga SA Police station.

In another incident, on 17 May, soldiers received information from the Tonga SA Police station regarding a vehicle (Hilux double cab) that was hijacked at Kahoyi Village near the Mananga Port of Entry with Eswatini. After the successful recovery of the vehicle, which was found abandoned in a field near Mananga Village, “the owner didn’t even bother to open a case as he was just too happy to have his vehicle returned to him in one piece. The vehicle was handed over to the owner by the Tonga SA Police Service.”

Apart from the vehicle successes, 9 SAI also managed to apprehend a total of 1 040 undocumented persons, confiscate 768 kg of dagga worth R2 458 708 and recover two firearms and 54 rounds of ammunition. In addition, the unit confiscated R929 045 worth of contraband destined for South Africa and made a total of 47 arrests.

Members of 9 SAI also confiscated over R1 million worth of illicit cigarettes in a single week: illicit cigarettes valued at R558 825 were confiscated around 2 km East of Dongola Kop while illicit cigarettes worth R494 000 were recovered near Musina Town, along with the Hilux they were being transported in. The South African Police Service Vehicle Theft Unit stationed at Thohoyandou was activated to come and tow the vehicle. “In both incidents, our soldiers were busy with wway-lay operations. In both incidents, the suspects ran away. The illicit cigarettes were also handed over to the South African Police Service and the South African Revenue Service/Customs,” the SANDF reported.

Meanwhile, SANDF soldiers were busy working together with SANParks rangers in the Kruger National Park when they managed to arrest two suspected poachers in the Satara area of the park on 17 May. The arrest followed after the SA National Defence Force received information of possible poachers being in their area of responsibility after entering Mozambique, reports Joint Tactical Headquarters Mpumalanga’s Lieutenant AS Frantz.

They arrested two male suspects, aged 28 and 39, from Mozambique. It was later discovered that one of the poachers had two previous dockets against him and that he also failed to attend court in 2015. They were arrested with a .458 hunting rifle with two rounds. The suspects, hunting rifle and ammunition were handed over to Skukuza SA Police Service.

“Joint Tactical Headquarters Mpumalanga is confident that the presence of the currently deployed 9 South African Battalion within their area of responsibility will greatly arrest the flow of criminal activities on and through our South Africa/Mozambique and South Africa/Eswatini Borderlines. The Cape Town-based Infantry unit of the South African National Defence Force is currently standing on R6 843 903 worth of successes when converted to monetary value,” Frantz concluded.

8 SAI is currently deployed on the Lesotho/South Africa border – a major crossing point for stolen livestock in southern Africa. Last month the unit confiscated 22 stolen cattle worth R176 000.

In April, the 15 companies of SANDF soldiers patrolling South Africa’s borders apprehended 3 763 illegal immigrants, including 1 774 undocumented Mozambicans and 1 574 undocumented Zimbabweans. That month, over 50 kg of copper was taken from smugglers and livestock valued at R1.5 million was prevented from leaving South Africa.