A severely stretched and thin cordon of soldiers protecting South Africa’s porous borders continue to confiscate contraband destined for informal traders, spaza shops and even legal retail outlets.
Information released by the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) shows soldiers took contraband, conservatively valued at over R27 million, from smugglers in the first seven months of the year.
By far the majority of contraband soldiers seized is clothing and footwear, with most of it fake and branded with top of the range names including Adidas and Nike. Perfume, liquor and cigarettes make up the balance of the R27 615 131 worth of contraband taken by soldiers and handed to police and SA Revenue Services (SARS) customs and excise, said Colonel Piet Paxton, Operational Communications at the SANDF Joint Operations Division.
The seizure of goods and products illegally coming across South Africa’s land borders is part of daily patrol work undertaken by soldiers as part of Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking.
The majority of contraband seizures are on South Africa’s borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The original Operation Corona intent to maintain South Africa’s territorial integrity still stands, as evidenced by the apprehension of 7 568 undocumented people between January and July. Again South Africa’s land borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe are where the majority are stopped and handed to Department of Home Affairs officials for further processing.
Soldiers also find themselves increasingly occupied apprehending livestock and the people stealing it, particularly on the Free State and Eastern Cape borders with Lesotho. More than 1 800 head of cattle as well as 819 units of small livestock, mostly goats and sheep, were recovered by patrolling soldiers. The total value of livestock recovered is R11.5 million.
Another duty soldiers find themselves doing is preventing stolen vehicles from being illegally taken out of South Africa. A hundred and twenty-one vehicles worth in excess of R31 million were prevented from leaving the country thanks to the efforts of soldiers deployed on border protection. The most “popular” countries for “export” are eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.