Parabats prove themselves as smuggler stoppers

2012

On the face of it, deploying specialist airborne soldiers for border protection might seem over the top. It is definitely not and is part and parcel of proper resource utilisation, respected defence analyst Helmoed Heitman maintains.

Speaking to defenceWeb in the wake of a Joint Operations tactical headquarters Mpumalanga report on successes notched up by 4 Parachute Battalion on its current Operation Corona deployment, he saw nothing untoward in using for border protection what were once colloquially termed “meat bombs” by pilots flying SA Air Force (SAAF) jump ships.

Heitman said most units have turns doing border security work. Evidence of this comes with the deployment of, among others, 1 Anti-Aircraft and 1 SA Tank regiments as well as 1 SSB (Special Services Battalion). The border protection tasking is by and large an SA Army one with Regular and Reserve force units activated and called up for six month tours of duty.

Plusses he names are “giving troops something concrete to do” and the opportunity for junior leaders to develop leadership skills in “an environment more challenging than a training area”.

In their “adopted” role of foot soldiers, the parabats confiscated illegal goods, including dagga in bags and compressed into balls and rolls, according to Lieutenant Kanyisa Nodangala from the provincial tactical headquarters in Mbombela. The busts were thanks to eagle eyes manning observation posts and vehicle stop and searches conducted by Bravo and Charlie company soldiers.

All told, the estimated street value of the drugs seized near the N2 border fence at Emachobeni and in the Mbuzini area is R614 000. In addition to losing “product” the dope smugglers were also relieved of an undisclosed number of firearms, ammunition and cash.

A day after the Mpumalanga successes were made public, soldiers on a border protection tour in northern KwaZulu-Natal were treated to a high-level SA National Defence Force (SANDF) visit, headed by General Rudzani Maphwanya. Accompanying the SANDF Chief were Chief Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni, Chief of the SA Air Force (SAAF), Lieutenant General Wiseman Mbambo; Deputy Chief SA Army, Major General Monwabisi Dyakopu and Director Corporate Communication (DCC), Brigadier General Andries Mahapa.

They met 7 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion elements based at the Pongola operational base and were briefed “in detail” on the status of the KwaZulu-Natal joint tactical headquarters, according to Captain Anelisiwe Tamela. Addressing 7 SAI officers and troops following the briefing, Maphwanya gave some insight into SANDF command cadre thinking on personnel, upcoming projects, operational base facilities and vehicles.