SA Army soldiers seize contraband, recover vehicles and detain illegal immigrants

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The best efforts of a thinly spread deployment of soldiers, while making some headway, does not appear to have significantly slowed the flow of contraband and narcotics across South Africa’s land borders.

Patrolled by 15 companies of mostly regular and reserve infantry units, with others such as 1 SA Tank Regiment also deployed, the 2 798 km of land border is confined to mostly rugged territory. The SA Army deployment relies on intelligence, garnered by way of civil/military co-operation with local residents on or near international land borders with patrols (on foot and by vehicle) along with observation posts using the Mark One eyeball to good effect. Regular stop and search vehicle checkpoints to find contraband as well as stolen or smuggled vehicles and “undocumented persons” are another method used by Operation Corona field commanders.

In August, soldiers confiscated just short of R25 million in what the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) calls “contraband” without further specifying. In years past this was broken down as cigarettes, liquor, pharmaceuticals, clothing and footwear (mostly copies of branded products). In July the net worth of contraband soldiers confiscated was just short of R19 million.

Worst culprit was Botswana where soldiers, working with police and SA Revenue Service (SARS) customs officials, confiscated R12 868 500 worth of contraband, followed closely by Zimbabwe with R12 020 805. Next highest was Kwazulu-Natal, with smugglers on its Eswatini and Mozambique borders losing goods valued at R1 798.

Illegal immigrants continue to seek a better life in South Africa with 428 apprehended Mozambicans leading the figures. The next highest number of illegals to find themselves in SA Police Service (SAPS) and Department of Home Affairs custody in August were 297 Zimbabweans. Soldiers patrolling the mountainous Eastern Cape/Lesotho border prevented 300 Basotho from illegally entering South Africa.

An unspecified number of stolen vehicles valued – in total – at R6.9 million were recovered with the undoubted “star” a top-end Toyota bakkie pulled from the Limpopo River.