Soldiers on toll plaza duty in December

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A commitment by Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise to government’s overall festive season security plan saw over 400 soldiers assigned infrastructure protection duties at toll roads and plazas.

At the same time indications from the Border Management Authority (BMA) were an unknown number of Reserve Force soldiers would be called up to boost Department of Home Affairs (DHA) immigration inspectors and police to cope with an expected influx of illegal immigrants, officially termed “undocumented persons” over the year-end period. Soldiers currently deployed on the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) border protection tasking, Operation Corona, would also – apparently – be part of the BMA’s first foray.

Despite earlier assurances to Parliamentary oversight committees that plans for memorandums of understanding with the SANDF, SA Police Service (SAPS) and SA Revenue Service (SARS) were in hand, the military component did not materialise.

This was confirmed by Brigadier General Andries Mahapa, SANDF directorate: corporate communication (DCC), director.

“BMA and the SANDF are still in discussion over execution of duties at ports of entry,” he said in response to a defenceWeb question this week.

Toll road duties saw 427 soldiers from Ingobamakhosi Carbineers, 121 SAI and Durban Light Infantry “conducting patrols in co-operation” with police on the N2 between Durban and Mtubatuba and the N3 from Van Reenen to Durban. All told, there was a military presence at eight toll plazas including the N1 in the Musina area.

The ministerial instruction saw Ladysmith based 5 SA Infantry Battalion on N3 standby duty with recovery vehicles at Van Reenen’s Pass, Mooi River and Durban. 44 Parachute Regiment was brought to standby level for emergency use with a 28 Squadron C-130BZ also at this readiness level. Another SA Air Force (SAAF) squadron – Durban-based 15 – had a pair of Oryx medium transport and an Agusta A-109 LUH on standby for the duration with three flight crews ready to go at all times.