The last 15 months of border protection operations by the SA Army has seen over 12 400 illegal immigrants apprehended by soldiers, mainly along South Africa’s borders with Mozambique and Zimbabwe.
The major task of soldiers and support personnel deployed as part of Operation Corona is border protection but this has not deterred the 13 companies currently doing duty from seizing large amounts of contraband destined for illegal sale by unscrupulous shop owners.
“Over R18 million worth of contraband, including cigarettes, liquor, clothing and make-up was taken from people attempting to bring goods into South Africa illegally,” SA Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusi Masondo said.
Seventy-six stolen vehicles were also recovered by soldiers whose efforts also saw 98 illegal firearms and quantities of ammunition, over a thousand head of livestock and more than 15 300 kg of dagga confiscated.
The seizures and apprehensions all took place on the Mozambique and Zimbabwe borders and represent a small quantity of the many patrol and observation hours put in the full-time and Reserve Force soldiers.
The Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) had planned to add another two companies to the border protection detail in the coming financial year. They were scheduled for deployment on South Africa’s borders with Botswana and Namibia.
Masondo told a media briefing in Thaba Tshwane this week that the extra two company deployments would not happen because of an already over-stretched personnel capacity in the landward arm of the SANDF.
“Those borders (with Botswana and Namibia) are not high traffic areas when it comes to illegal immigrants, smugglers and poachers so it is not a priority to put troops there,” he said adding the current deployed capacity “will continue doing the job”.