The SA National Defence Force’s (SANDF) Joint Operations Division has again confirmed it is over-stretched when it comes to deployments both internally and externally.
One example is the border protection tasking Operation Corona where 13 infantry companies supported by four battalion headquarters currently patrol South Africa’s 4,471 km land border with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. The majority of patrol work is done in specially adapted 4×4 bakkies with foot patrols, observation posts and a smattering of aerial support from the SA Air Force.
A Joint Operations presentation late last year noted that “we do what we can with what we have, as we acknowledge the military’s role as government’s instrument to achieve internal and external diplomatic and security objectives”.
The “what we have” part is aptly described as “funding challenges” in a statement issued by Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster.
“The SANDF plan is to deploy a total of 22 sub-units (companies). However that has not been achieved due to funding challenges. It is the intention of the Department of Defence to deploy an additional two sub-units and raise the number to 15 in the current financial year through cash flow management,” the statement said adding those units deployed in the Kruger National Park had the additional task of assisting the ranger corps in anti-poaching operations, concentrating on rhino poachers.
Soldiers deployed on border protection have confiscated illegal weapons, apprehended foreign nationals, arrested criminals, recovered stolen vehicles and livestock and confiscated dagga and contraband goods. According to the cluster contraband valued at just on R12 million had been seized by soldiers in the first nine months of last year.
As far as personnel are concerned, Joint Ops notes that 2,475 uniformed members of the SANDF are currently deployed on Corona duties. The majority (1,938) are men and just under half the total deployment consists of Reserve Force members.
All told Joint Ops currently has just over 4,600 soldiers deployed locally and continentally. This includes 793 in Sudan and 1,311 in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
The deployment profile supplied by Joint Ops indicates soldiers are aged between 20 and 55 “with a few over 55”.