South Africa might have new border management legislation in place but it’s not yet making an iota of difference along at least the border between Lesotho and the central Free State province, with the most recent incident seeing SANDF personnel arrest two alleged rustlers.
The porosity of the border was borne out by a recent oversight visit to the border separating the mountain kingdom from its encompassing neighbour. Opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party Member of the Free State provincial legislature, Roy Jankielsohn, went to a section of border between Clarens and Fouriesburg.
“Rural communities along this border are regular victims of farm attacks, theft of livestock, vehicles, equipment and other crimes. My oversight visit indicates there is no fence or other barrier to prevent people crossing the border,” he said, adding he did see two armed South African soldiers “sitting next to a crossroad several kilometres from the border”.
“With the Caledon River reduced to a stream as a result of drought, there is no hindrance preventing people and stolen property, be it livestock, vehicles or farm equipment crossing this section of border.”
Jankielsohn points to the dissolution of what was South Africa’s “home guard” – the commandos – between 2005 and 2008 as a loss to both border protection and rural security.
“Soon afterwards the DA put forward alternative policy options and subsequently produced and has since updated and implemented a rural safety working group with representatives in all nine provinces,” he said adding a request for a rural safety debate in Parliament was made by DA MPs.
“The party is working at having farm and rural attacks declared hate crimes.
“The Free State branch of the DA supports our Parliamentary colleagues on initiatives to address this threat to food security and the safety of all South Africans, including those under threat from cross-border crime,” he said.
President Cyril Ramaphosa earlier this month signed the Border Management Authority (BMA) Act into law. It will see the establishment of a new government agency, resorting under the Department of Home Affairs, taking charge of South Africa’s 57 official ports of entry with no mention of control and management of the over four thousand kilometres of land border currently watched over by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
South African soldiers deployed to the Lesotho border have in the last couple of weeks recorded numerous successes, including the seizure of plastic bags of dagga from Lesotho members near Bebeza.
On 19 July the SANDF arrested two persons from Lesotho for alleged stock theft and they were handed over to the South African Police Service (SAPS). Conflicting reports suggest the two may have been Lesotho Defence Force (LDF) members who either crossed into South Africa illegally to steal animals or to track down rustlers.
The incident occurred near Matatiele in the Eastern Cape. LDF spokesman Captain Kelebone Mothibi said the two men were on patrol in Qachas Nek along the borders of Lesotho and South Africa. The two men are Rorisang Moeti (26) and Dumile Ts’oeunyane (22).
According to reports, four men apparently took 57 sheep and 39 goats at Mafube Mountains at Modibong and drove them towards Lesotho. Police and soldiers were alerted and two of the men were detained. They were found in possession of two rifles and 65 rounds of ammunition.
Video of the arrest by South African soldiers showed each suspect being kicked once in the head but it is not clear if soldiers, or civilians who had gathered around, were doing the kicking.