Just one of the ways the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is working smarter comes from Operation Corona the border protection tasking which currently sees 13 companies deployed along South Africa’s borders with six neighbouring countries.
The Botswana and Namibia borders are the latest to be added to Lesotho, Mozambique, Swaziland and Zimbabwe where there is a uniformed presence to prevent contraband goods being bought into South Africa, stop illegal immigrants and prevent cross-border theft of goods ranging from vehicles through livestock.
Stretched as it is financially the SANDF, in the case of Operation Corona under the auspices of the Joint Operations Division, is exploring all avenues to ensure men and equipment are on the ground and working within the limits of an already tight budget.
This has seen, in the instance of the Louisvale base outside Upington, a company from the Cape Town Highlanders deployed in existing facilities and moving by road to the border with Namibia where foot patrols are conducted.
But things will improve soon according to Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton.
“A re-deployable camp system has been obtained from the Navy and will be erected and operational by August 20 at the base providing better accommodation and facilities, including kitchen and ablution, for the soldiers currently there as well as those who will follow them.”
The Reserve Force unit’s current modus operandi sees Samil trucks used as transport to and from the border. Paxton said plans are well advanced to change this and provide better patrol coverage along the Namibia/South Africa border.
“I cannot release details because it is an operational issue. All I can say are the soldiers doing border protection duty on the Namibia/South Africa border will be able to do their work far better in the not too distant future,” he said.
Protection of the Botswana/South Africa border has also become a fait accompli in the current financial cycle. It is being done partially from existing deployments on the Zimbabwe border in Limpopo boosted by a full-time force company based in Mafikeng.
This is also being evaluated with a view to upgrading and improvement, both from the points of view of doing the border protection task better and ensuring accommodation and facilities for deployed soldiers are of a high standard.
Medical care and treatment for soldiers doing border protection is being addressed by a task team that will report to Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula next month on the expanded state of military health in South Africa. The task team has visited the three military hospitals operated by the SA Military Health Services (SAMHS), a number of sickbays as well as healthcare facilities that form part of Operation Corona and SANDF continental peacekeeping deployments.