Indications the military is not immune to South Africa’s criminal elements and their illegal activities comes from Makhanda, previously Grahamstown, in Eastern Cape where the SA Army’s 6 SA Infantry Battalion is headquartered.
A reply to a Parliamentary question by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula brought to light there is currently no fence on the eastern boundary of the airborne infantry unit’s training area. She told Democratic Alliance parliamentarian Annette Steyn, asking on behalf of the party’s shadow agriculture, land reform and rural development portfolio, the fence “was absent as it has been stolen”.
Again, as if often the case with the Department of Defence (DoD), “a project was registered and sent out for tender via the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), but the process was placed on hold due to insufficient funding” the Ministerial response read.
Steyn also sought details of disputes and/or complaints by farmers in the vicinity of the base regarding illegal hunting and stock theft.
Mapisa-Nqakula’s response indicated “the SA Army is aware of complaints by farmers adjacent to the 6 SAI training area, centred on stock theft and illegal poaching, exacerbated by the absent perimeter fence, and has reported this to the SANDF (SA National Defence Force)”.
The Ministerial response seems to indicate it does not see Minister Patricia de Lille’s department taking any action on an urgent basis to replace the perimeter fence which has now been put on the to-do list of the Defence Works Formation (DWF).
“The DWF is co-ordinating restoration of the absent perimeter fence with the provincial Department of Public Works and Infrastructure on behalf of the DoD.”
It’s not only missing fences, stock theft and poaching are causing headaches for the command structure of the Eastern Cape base as well as management of the Infantry Formation and the SA Army.
Residents of a recently established “informal settlement” – Nkanini – in the area reportedly make use of easy access to the unfenced training area, poaching wildlife including springbok, blesbok and kudu. According to News24, people living in Nkanini and Makhanda are responsible for the removal of the perimeter fence.
This saw an unidentified man “breach security” in search of scrap metal to sell. He collected what News24 said was “a bag of scrap”, took it home and it exploded when he put it down. A police source told the digital news site the bag “was filled with used hand grenades”.
In the absence of a section of perimeter fence, Mapisa-Nqakula assured her questioner “static and roving guards from 6 SAI are in place and patrolling the vast training area”.