In the 2020/21 financial year soldiers on border protection duty apprehended more than 21 000 illegal immigrants averaging out at 1 775 a month – around 800 less than were intercepted on South Africa’s 4 862 km long land border it shares with six countries in September.
The highest number – 581 – of “undocumented persons”, the term used for border jumpers by the Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), in September were from Zimbabwe. eSwatini and Mozambique on South Africa’s eastern boundary were also “popular” with people seeking either employment or escape from prevailing conditions, including an insurgency and rising political unrest against an apparently entrenched monarchy. Two-hundred and eighty-four Mozambicans and Swazis found themselves as “guests” of the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) after soldiers prevented them moving deeper into South Africa.
Contraband goods, including liquor, valued at R3.3 million, was taken from smugglers and handed to police and customs officials for disposal in September on South Africa’s borders with Lesotho, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The Department of Defence (DoD) 2020/21 annual report has it soldiers deployed on Operation Corona, the border protection the SANDF “inherited” from the SA Police Service (SAPS) 10 years ago, took R80.57 million worth of contraband from smugglers. That averages out at R6.7 million a month.
Other numbers given in the latest DoD annual report include the recovery of 484 stolen vehicles and 30 weapons along with over thirteen thousand kilogrammes dagga confiscated and more than 1 700 head of livestock returned to rightful owners.
The SA Army, from both its regular and reserve units, is the major personnel supplier to Op Corona with 15 companies doing border duty 365 days a year. When the border protection tasking was re-assigned to the national defence force, planning was to annually increase the number of soldiers to a maximum of 22 companies. Ongoing financial constraints and austerity measures mean the number of soldiers doing border duty remained at the 15 company mark for the past five years.