SANDF border protection deployment paying dividends


The thin line that is the SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) border protection deployment is acquitting itself well despite a shortage of resources that can be laid directly at the door of a shrinking defence budget.

Elements of the SANDF are presently deployed along the seven provinces that have landward borders with surrounding countries according to Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) cluster spokesman Nikelwa Tengimfene.

In the past 12 month period the 13 companies deployed as part of Operation Corona have confiscated contraband, mainly cigarettes and liquor, worth more than R100 million and also stopped more than 15 tons of dagga, valued at R50 million, from reaching illegal markets in South Africa.

The soldiers patrolling the country’s borders, on foot and horseback as well as on motorcycles and in specifically modified and strengthened bakkies, also apprehended 80 000 undocumented persons. These range from people attempting to enter South Africa illegally, either in search of work or to sell goods on which no tax or excise duty has been paid. Soldiers handed them over to the SA Police Service and Department of Home Affairs for further action.

With the broad mandate of securing South Africa’s borders the soldiers were also responsible for the arrest of 2 000 known criminals, recovering more than 300 stolen vehicles and 18 000 head of livestock, mostly cattle but also goats, sheep and chickens.

A hundred and three weapons of various calibres and types were also confiscated from undocumented persons and illegal immigrants.

The SANDF was instructed by Cabinet to take back its border protection function from the SA Police Service in 2009 and since 2010 the military has been implementing a phased-in approach to patrol the country’s notoriously porous landward borders. Operation Corona has as its mainstay the protection of South Africa’s territorial integrity against cross-border crime and illegal activities, Tengimfene said.

The presence of soldiers in the Kruger National Park, which borders both Mozambique and Zimbabwe, has seen soldiers given an additional task providing assistance to the park’s ranger corps and other security agencies to prevent rhino poaching.

Tengimfene said soldiers provided a force multiplier particularly with regard to intelligence to give ground-based counter-poaching teams advance warning of where poachers are likely to strike.

The world renowned game reserve is the preferred target of rhino poachers, the majority of who enter Kruger illegally from Mozambique. The most recent statistics available from the Department of Environment Affairs show the country had lost 147 rhinos to poachers by the third week in February. The majority of these – 95 – were killed in Kruger.

The SANDF plans for Operation Corona will see 22 companies, each comprising about 165 personnel, deployed along the country’s 4 471km landward borders by the end of the 2015/16 financial year.