The death, at the weekend, of an infantry soldier in the Kruger National Park, brings to 17 the number of South African National Defence Force soldiers killed on border protection duties over the past three years.
Private Thabiso Hoaar Zulu of Regiment East Rand, an SA Army Reserve Force unit, was attached to 2 SA Infantry Battalion deployed in the Kruger park as part of the ongoing Operation Corona.
SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Director: Corporate Communications Brigadier Xolani Mabanga said in a terse statement that Zulu died after “allegedly being involved in a fatal shooting incident” while on duty.
Apart from a board of inquiry being convened, he did not supply any other details.
Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament earlier this month that five soldiers died on border protection duty in 2011. Another five were killed last year and the death of Private Zulu brings this year’s Operation Corona death toll to seven.
SANDF head of communications Siphiwe Dlamini said not all Operation Corona deaths were as a result of contacts and firefights.
“Deployed troops are exposed to a number of hazards including vehicle crashes, illnesses and diseases such as malaria as well as armed illegal immigrants and poachers.”
Two companies from 8 SA Infantry Battalion are currently involved in preparation work on Phase Four of Operation Corona. This will see SA Army and support elements deployed on the Botswana and Namibia borders. The soldiers are currently based in Mafikeng and Upington.
The total number of companies deployed on border protection currently stands at 13, including the two preparing for Phase Four of the operation on South Africa’s borders with Botswana and Namibia.
Phase one of the operation saw troops deployed on the South Africa/Zimbabwe border. Phase Two boosted this deployment with additional soldiers going to the Lesotho, Mozambique and Swaziland borders while Phase Three, which began on April 1 last year, reinforced deployments to all these borders.
Over the last 15 months of patrolling, the SANDF has confiscated more than R18 million worth of contraband, including cigarettes, liquor, clothing and make-up. In the same period over 12 400 illegal immigrants were apprehended by soldiers and handed to police and Department of Home Affairs officials. Seventy-six stolen vehicles were also recovered by the men and women in uniform who also took possession of 98 illegal firearms, more than a thousand head of livestock and 15 300 kg of dagga.
The Department of Defence said additional funding will have to be allocated to ensure Operation Corona can properly execute its tasking. An additional R100 million was allocated for this task in the 2011/12 defence budget vote. In 2012/13 the DoD requested an additional R236 million for border protection and an additional R357 million will be asked for in the coming financial year.