Mobility packages add value to border protection


It’s been just on three years since modified Toyota Land Cruisers were inducted as part of the national border protection tasking – Operation Corona – and the soft-skinned vehicles are assisting in at least slowing down the seeming flood of foreigners entering South Africa illegally.

Officially termed “mobility packages”, the 4X4 vehicles were first deployed on the South Africa’s eastern border with what was then Swaziland, now eSwatini, in November 2017.

All told the SA Army acquisition process was for 435 vehicles in four variants – troop transport, logistic support, control and command and ambulance. The Toyota vehicles replaced Samils and supplement 4X4 Toyota Hiluxes in service as troop transport, carrying a five-strong stick of soldiers.

In what has become the norm for the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) when asked questions specifically relating to equipment and its use, the Joint Operations Division did not respond to a question on how many are currently in service, how many vehicles have been lost and why?

defenceWeb was told the vehicles are effective in the border protection role because they are fast, mobile and agile. Also in their favour are lower maintenance costs because they are effectively off-the-shelf vehicles with minimal modifications and none affecting engine, drive and transmission components. This has an added positive in that turnaround times for regular and unplanned maintenance is quick because all nine South Africa’s provinces have a number of Toyota dealerships, with many in each reach of Op Corona bases and vehicle parks.

“Survivalability” of the soft-skinned vehicles is reportedly good with “very few losses” reported by Joint Ops.

“When there is damage is it mainly as a result of the rugged terrain the mobility packages operate in,” according to Joint Ops.

The SANDF division responsible for deployment of personnel and equipment when, asked about the utilisation of UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) and radar in the Op Corona areas of operation, confirmed recently by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, would not divulge specifics.

This publication was told: “UAVs can be used in the border protection role. When and where depends on intelligence driven requirements”. The same response was given for radar with the rider of their deployment done “in accordance with airspace regulations and the law”.

It is believed that Indiza UAVs, developed by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research, have been used for border patrol duties.

According to a presentation to Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) the most heavily “populated” border as far as bases are concerned is the South Africa/Zimbabwe one. Five bases at Madimbo, Musina, Pontdrift, Rooibokkraal and Swartwater each house at least one infantry company with support elements on base.

There are three bases on the South Africa/Mozambique border at Macadamia, Sandriver (in the Kruger National Park) and Zonstraal with another three at Merrivale, Ndumo and Pongola on the South Africa/eSwatini border.