Hot pursuit in the pipeline for border protection


In its annual performance plan for the current year, the Department of Defence (DoD) notes “offensive operations within applicable international legal frameworks” may become a government requirement.

Once the legal requirements are in place this could see soldiers, after obtaining the necessary clearances, use “hot pursuit” to follow suspected poachers, smugglers and others into neighbouring countries.

The document does not go into any specifics or give a timeframe for implementation. It does point out the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is effectively carrying out border control and protection on the 4 471 km of South Africa’s land border, excluding the 53 official points of entry.

While specifics are not mentioned, apart from “international legal frameworks”, defence analyst Helmoed Heitman maintains there is a real case for having the hot pursuit option.

“It must be in terms of a formal agreement with the government concerned, which must fit in with each country’s laws in respect of arrest and detention and search and seizure and within the framework of tactical level arrangements between personnel on both sides of the border, otherwise there is too much risk of inadvertent clashes,” he said adding “it has to work both ways”.

He suggests part of arrangements, once legalities are ironed out and in place, should be designated liaison officers and a “hot line” type telephone arrangement at local level. Common frequencies to allow patrols both sides of any particular border to talk with each other and ensuring for example, the maps used by Mozambican border guards are the same as those South African soldiers have on the same border are other operational points to consider.

An arrangement of this type involving South Africa and, say eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe, would minimise cross-border shooting incidents such as the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border one that claimed the lives of two Mozambican border guards in mid-June.

The incident saw high level meetings between the two countries with the SANDF represented by its Joint Operations Chief, Lieutenant General Barney Hlatshwayo. It is believed the SA Police Service (SAPS) deputy national commissioner accompanied him to Maputo to meet senior Mozambican government officials.

No further information on the shooting has been released. Speaking after this week’s SANDF Women’s Month parade Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula said the board of inquiry report into the incident had been completed and would be forwarded to SANDF Chief General Solly Shoke.

She told defenceWeb the shooting had not and will not affect relations between Mozambique and South Africa.