“Ops normal” is probably the best way to sum up the national defence force’s ongoing border protection tasking which in the three months ending June saw more than R20 million worth of contraband and narcotics valued at R24 million confiscated by soldiers.
This, according to Lieutenant Colonel Seitebatso Block from the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), is part of the Operation Corona tasking to protect South Africa’s territorial integrity and ensure borders are safe. This work is in the hands of 15 companies, mostly from infantry battalions (both Regular and Reserve Force) supplemented by other units, dependent on commitments. This has in the past seen, among others, Bloemfontein-based 1 SA Tank Regiment deployed along the Lesotho/South Africa land border in Free State.
The R20 million plus of contraband was taken from smugglers attempting to enter South Africa from Botswana, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
Stolen vehicles valued at R17 677 669 and a R115 000 motorcycle were intercepted before they could illegally exit South Africa. The majority of stolen vehicles are destined for Mozambique where they are either allegedly illegally exported by sea or dismantled in chop-shops for use in remade vehicles.
Narcotics, including dagga, valued at R24 390 819 was confiscated by troops deployed in the Eastern Cape, Free State, Kwazulu-Natal and Mpumalanga.
The original border protection tasking to apprehend undocumented persons remains a daily job for soldiers on foot, mounted and in vehicles. The three month period April to June saw 3 698 people apprehended and handed to police and the Department of Home Affairs.
All confiscated goods are declared by soldiers and handed to the relevant state departments including the SA Police Service and SA Revenue Service’s Customs Division.
Soldiers on border duty also find themselves stopping livestock theft, with the majority of incidents reported on the Eastern Cape and Free State borders with Lesotho.