The Democratic Alliance (DA) has welcomed the announcement that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will be redeployed to protect the nation’s borders.
The announcement was made by Cabinet spokesman Themba Maseko at a media briefing last Wednesday.
“We support this because there is an urgent need to properly protect our borders – particularly with respect to keeping out illegal drugs, preventing the transfer of stolen property, and mitigating the risk of a spike in cross-border human trafficking during the 2010 World Cup,” DA shadow deputy defence minister James Lorimer said in a statement this morning.
“What we now need to do is ensure that logistical issues are resolved. The Department of Defence needs to show that it has the correct infrastructure in place to ensure that this deployment is properly managed and actually works,” Lorimer added.
Maseko said the announcement reversed a decision made in 2003. That saw the SANDF that took over borderline control from the police in 1987 withdraw from the Namibian and Botswana borders in financial year (FY) 2004/5, followed by the Lesotho border in FY2006/7 and the Mozambique and Swaziland borderlines in FY2007/8. The SANDF was meant to withdraw from the Zimbabwe frontier in March this year but that was stopped at the proverbial last moment.
The Cabinet spokesman added that “no figures were given at this particular meeting about how many soldiers will be required to perform this function. No timeframes were agreed to and no timeframes was set for the first deployment of the SANDF.”
Lorimer says a DA team visited some of South Africa’s borders earlier this year and found control and protection to be almost non-existent. He noted unprotected borders allowing for easy exit for stolen goods, particularly cars as well as entrance to the country of illegal drugs.
It also, literally, opened a door for illegal immigrants and allowed for human trafficking.
It also severely diminished agricultural production in some areas adjacent to borders, especially along the Lesotho borderline where poaching and stock theft is now rife as well as significantly increasing the risk of the cross border spread of agricultural diseases.
“When this year’s session of Parliament opened, the ANC government hinted that troops would be redeployed to protect borders, then appeared to back off on the plan, and has now explicitly supported it,” Lorimer adds. “The delay in action has been regrettable, because six months have passed, and every day without secure borders makes the situation worse.
“Now we need … government to release its plans on how and when it will re-establish secure borders. We need to know how many companies of troops will be assigned border duties (military experts calculate we need 20 companies); we need to know whether the SANDF will be given additional funds to cover the deployment and, most of all, we need to know when this will happen.”
Pic: Part of the dilapidated SA-Zimbabwe borderline fence as found by DA MP James Lorimer (left) and David Maynier (right) earlier this year