The South African National Defence Force will be early 2015 have 15 companies of about 180 soldiers each deployed along the nation’s land border with Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho. The military will also deploy a squadron (company-equivalent) of field engineers t maintain and improve border facilities.
Currently four companies are deployed along sections of the Zimbabwe and Mozambican borders. The four companies are operating from Pontdrift and Musina in Limpopo, Macadamia in Mpumalanga and Ndumo in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Next April two more companies will join this force and deploy to Skukuza and Piet Retief, both in Mpumalanga. In April 2012 three more companies will step up state control of a notoriously porous eastern border by deploying to Phalaborwa, Zonstraal and Pongola. Two tactical headquarters will also deploy with them: one along the Zimbabwe border and another along the Mpumalanga line.
In the autumn of 2013, three more companies will be deployed, one to Madimbo in Limpopo, and two to Lesotho: one at Fouriesburg in the Free State and the other at Barkley East. Full deployment under the current Operation Corona scheme will be achieved in 2015 with further deployments along the Lesotho border at Himevile, Cedarville and Maluti. Two tactical headquarters will also deploy, one in KZN and the other in the Free State, in the place of the Group headquarters that were decommissioned when the commando system was scrapped after a decision by President Thabo Mbeki in 2003.
Colonel Lucas Delport, Senior Staff Officer Planning on the Joint-5 (Long Term Planning) staff of the Joint Operations Division told a media briefing yesterday a “Berlin Wall” approach to border control will not work for a country with a 4471km land border. He notes about half – 2058km – is seen as a priority, hence the focus along the Zimbabwe, Swaziland, Mozambique and Lesotho borders over the next five years. The Namibian and Botswana borders are seen as lesser priorities.
Because of the relatively low force levels available for the task – some 600 soldiers at present and some 2700 by April 2015, land border security will employ a mobile concept, albeit in depth. The deployment is in term of Section 18(1)(d) of the Defence Act 42 of 2002 that authorises the President or the Minister of Defence to employ of the SANDF for service inside the Republic or in
international waters, in order to effect national border control. Section 20(1) of the same law adds military personnel, when so employed “has the same powers and duties [to arrest, detain, seize and search] as those conferred or imposed upon a member of the South African Police Service (SAPS)”.
Delport says the mission area and operational areas are being proclaimed and published in the Government Gazette as they are established.
With the troops gaining police powers, incident locations become crime scenes and will require close cooperation with the police as well as appropriate training for the soldiers and the provision of
the correct equipment,especially non-lethal capabilities. Delport added the return of the SANDF to the border was not an indictment on any other government department or an indication of failure.
Instead, land, air and maritime border safeguarding is a component of the defence of the territorial integrity and sovereignty of SA within the framework of a national border safeguarding strategy and in pursuance of national strategic objectives. This requires the continuous and uninterrupted employment of tailored military capabilities in identified mission areas in cooperation with other government departments to effect border safeguarding. Landward units will conduct high mobility operations day and night and companies, platoons and sections so deployed must be self-sustained to conduct operations for periods up to 72 hours before being rotated or replenished.
Similar work is being done to safeguard the nation’s 2798km sea and 7660km air border. Delport says in the short to medium term SA Air Force and SA Army assets will be used ad hoc to conduct surveillance of the air dimension, to compile an air picture and to intercept transgressors along the lines of the air space control concept developed for Operation Kgwele, the safeguarding of the soccer World Cup. Delport noted that the 36th Amendment of Civil Aviation Regulations in 1997 effectively applies Section 18(1)(d) of the Defence Act in that realm as well. Deployments will be mobile and intelligence-driven and will primarily focus on the air border areas between the RSA and its neighbours. The SANDF will be the oprational lead in the air and for the compilation of the air picture. Applicable government departments will be responsible for any further action on the ground.
At sea, the 1994 Maritime Zones Act defines the areas subject to monitoring and control by the state to enforce its authority as first the territorial waters (out to 12 nautical miles), then the contiguous zone to 24 nautical miles, the exclusive economic zone (200 nautical miles) on both the continental shelf and for the Prince Edward group. In the short and medium term operations will also be conducted on an ad hoc basis using naval and air assets supported by intelligence and interdepartmental as well as regional cooperation. The focus will be on deteence and the enforcement of state authority at sea. A furtherextension of this will sea thos assets periodically operating in Mozambican and Namibian waters to extend deterence beyond SA waters and enhance situational awareness.
Initial deployments will be with present SANDF capabilities. This will be built on by the further development of the Corona strategy, a sensor strategy and the creation of the Border Management Agency. On he landward side, attention will also be given to future fence systems to control the movement of people as well as animals across the land borders.