Improved control mechanisms at South Africa’s 57 official points of entry were recently under discussion in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) but the protection and regulation of by far the majority of the country’s close to 5 000 km land border remains in the hands of 15 companies of soldiers from both the regular and Reserve Force.
A snapshot of their successes since the beginning of the year gives some indication of the sweat equity put in by soldiers deployed on Operation Corona, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) border protection tasking. They are mostly infantry troops, supplemented from time to time by units from other formations including armour and engineers.
Contraband goods valued at just under R40 million were confiscated by soldiers on South Africa’s land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe in the first 11 months of 2019.
This included narcotics (dagga, mandrax, cocaine, ecstasy and tik). According to SANDF Joint Operations headquarters 6.7 tons of dagga, the majority from Lesotho and Mozambique, was confiscated along with 22 tons of dagga plants. The majority of plants were taken from smugglers bringing seedlings and small plants into South Africa with the balance found and destroyed on well-hidden dagga fields in mountainous parts of Mpumalanga. The street value of seized dagga is conservatively estimated at R33 million.
Soldiers also recovered 165 kg of copper, apparently bound for illegal metal markets in Zimbabwe.
Soldiers intercepted 9 356 undocumented persons attempting to illegally enter South Africa. All were handed to either the Department of Home Affairs or the SA Police Service (SAPS) as soldiers do not have powers of arrest.
While not strictly part of the Corona operational plan, the recovery of stolen vehicles is another part of the work done by soldiers. One hundred and sixty-one vehicles earmarked for either foreign buyers or chop shops in neighbouring countries were confiscated in South Africa. The majority were found on the Mpumalanga and KwaZulu-Natal borders with Mozambique and eSwatini (107). Total value of vehicles recovered is estimated at R38.4 million.