More than 3600 soldiers could be deployed along South Africa’s land borders by March 2014, if current plans come to fruition and the National Treasury provide the funding.
Acting Chief of the South African National Defence Force, Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima says the purpose of Operation Corona,the current border safeguarding drive, is to re-assert state authority along and adjacent to the 4471km border-line.
“In terms of the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa, it is the SANDF’s responsibility to safeguard our land, air and maritime borders. The South African government took a conscious decision to declare border safeguarding a national priority.”
Minister of Defence and Military Veterans Lindiwe Sisulu in her budget vote earlier this month said the military had “promised to return to the borders and we can report we have done so. We are currently covering 1500 kilometres of the border.
“At the end of the full deployment, it is estimated that the SANDF would cover 4 471 kilometres of land border, 2700 kilometres of maritime border and 7660 kilometres of air border. We took the opportunity to invite members of the Portfolio Committee on Defence to see the formidable challenges that we are faced with as we took over the responsibility. Now South Africa is reaping the benefits of our deployment. Our borders are most secure, cross-border crime has dropped, syndicate crime has been dealt a blow and our communities and the farmers feel safer, because they believe in us”.
Matanzima said the return to the borders is being effected in five phases over the next four years with a total of 22 companies.
Phase 1 (April 2010/March 2011). “This phase ended in March 2011 with four companies already deployed on the North-East Zimbabwe and Mozambique borders. Two engineer troops (platoons) were deployed in support to repair border fences,” Matanzima said.
Phase 2 (April 2011/March 2012). “This phase started in the new financial year (1 April 2011) and includes the deployment of three companies to the Kruger National Park (Mozambique), Lesotho and Swaziland borders respectively.”
Phase 3 (April 2012/March 2013). “Four additional companies will deploy on the Zimbabwe, Lesotho and Swaziland borders.”
Phase 4 (April 2013/March 2014). “The focus in this deployment will be on the Botswana/Namibian borders, but will also include deployments on the Lesotho border.”
Phase 5 (April 2014/March 2015). “Deployments will concentrate along the Botswana and Namibian frontiers. Additional deployments will include Swaziland and Mozambique. By this time all 22 companies would be deployed and safeguarding South Africa’s land borders.” His director: conventional operations, Brigadier General “Koos” Liebenberg added that each company mustered 165 soldiers. In addition, several battalion headquarters would be deployed to command and support the deployed sub-units.
Matanzima noted that although “the above phases are spread over a period of five years, however, the minister has directed that all these phases be compressed into a three year period running up to 2014.”
The general noted the SANDF “is the lead department in the border safeguarding, but requires the co-operation of various state departments namely: Agriculture, Health, Home Affairs, Public Works, South African Police Services, State Security and Tourism to ensure our success and effectiveness.
“The land border safeguarding will be conducted mainly by the South African Army soldiers supported by the South African Air Force and South African Military Health Services elements. These will be operating in identified mission areas conducting day and night high mobility operations.
“I would also like to take this opportunity to appeal to the members of the community where we are deployed to be supportive to the SANDF members in fulfillment of their noble call. I would also in the same vein like to take this opportunity to issue a stern warning to the illegal border-crossers and rhino poachers that we don’t want any casualties and that pulling a gun against a soldier is the last thing they should attempt to do.”