The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has recorded notable successes during Operation Corona, the safeguarding of South Africa’s borders, and says it is proud of its members achievements over the last three months.
The SANDF said that during operations between April 1 this year and July 10, it had confiscated contraband goods worth R4 million, including alcohol, cigarettes, medicine, beauty products and counterfeit goods.
During the same period it had confiscated 14 weapons, 937 864 kg of dagga, 8 719 livestock and 31 stolen vehicles and had arrested 294 criminals.
Illegal immigration is a big problem, with thousands of people illegally streaming over the borders. It has been estimated that there are between two and eight million illegal immigrants in South Africa. There could be up to three million Zimbabweans and a million Mozambicans while some estimates suggest that one in every three Lesotho citizens lives in South Africa. Over the last three months the SANDF apprehended 6 706 undocumented persons from Asia, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Lesotho, Malawi and Swaziland.
According to the Department of Defence, in the 18 months prior to April, Operation Corona resulted in the recovery of 76 stolen vehicles; the recovery of 1 435 livestock; the confiscation of R81.5 million worth of contraband; the apprehension of 35 124 illegal immigrants; and the confiscation of 19 illegal weapons.
Furthermore, in the 18-month period the SANDF confiscated 56 kg of stolen precious metals (copper and gold), which could have otherwise found their way to the black market.
SANDF soldiers are heavily involved in anti-poaching activities, notably in the Kruger National Park, as South Africa is home to about 22 000 white and black rhino – approximately 93% of the world’s rhino population. Between February and July, 12 poachers were arrested and five poachers killed, the Department of Defence said.
According to data from the department of environmental affairs, as of June 15, a total of 245 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year. This is versus 448 last year and 333 in 2010.
Chief of Joint Operations Lieutenant General Derrick Mgwebi commended the men and women in uniform on their achievements and urged them to be more vigilant and disciplined as they execute their duties of safeguarding South Africa’s borders.
In April this year then-minister of defence Lindiwe Sisulu said Operation Corona was helping to reduce crime. “There is no doubt that we are succeeding in ensuring the territorial integrity of the Republic of South Africa in terms of the land and maritime borders as well as Air Space integrity,” she stated in reply to a parliamentary question.
“In line with our phased approach, phase one has been successfully executed and it covered the South Africa/Zimbabwe border line. We also prioritised the Mozambique borderline for the reason that they are the most porous and the threat especially to our endangered species, the rhinos,” Sisulu stated in her reply.
Phase two saw the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) deployed on the Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho international borders, while phase three, which began on April 1, is also focusing on these borders, with the deployment of another four military companies, bringing the total to 11. A military company consists of 150 soldiers. There are currently 2 108 troops on all the borders, including in the Kruger Park, according to South African Navy Captain Zamo Sithole, Joint Operation Division Communication Officer.
“The SANDF is fulfilling its mandate not only with distinction but with humility as well,” Sisulu stated. “We have made substantial difference along the borderline since Operation Corona started.”