As one of the government departments and agencies involved in the fledgling Border Management Agency (BMA) and its precursor, Operation Pyramid, the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) co-operates and works with all involved to ensure success, according to Department of Defence (DoD) head of communications (HOC) Siphiwe Dlamini.
Operation Pyramid was launched by Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba last month. It will see improved co-ordination and alignment of government border projects, programmes and interventions ahead of the establishment of the BMA in 2017.
Earlier this year Minister in the Presidency, Jeff Radebe, said the implementation of BMA as a public entity would also see its mandate and functions expanded to include the air, land (border guard) and maritime (coast guard) border environments.
Asked whether the border and coast guards would come from within the ranks of the SANDF, Dlamini would go no further than to say the SANDF is part of the BMA process and “even chairs one of the working groups”. He also preferred not to comment on the possibility of these guard forces being new ones and falling under the command and control of the SANDF.
“A decision was taken by Cabinet to form the BMA and our Minister (Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula) is a member of Cabinet. If there were any issues she wanted to raise she would have raised them in Cabinet,” he said.
According to Radebe, the BMA will ensure co-ordination and co-operation among all departments operating at air, land and sea ports of entry and along the country’s borders.
The SANDF is the sole government asset tasked with border protection. In terms of Operation Corona this sees soldiers patrolling thousands of kilometres of land border in far-flung and hostile areas where fences have been torn down to allow easy access for illegal immigrants, drug traffickers, livestock rustlers and other criminal elements.
There are currently 13 companies deployed along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and a further two companies will be ordered to the same tasking in the current financial year. This was disclosed by the Minister during her budget vote address to Parliament but it is not indicated in the DoD medium term expenditure framework approved by National Treasury.
Ahead of her budget vote, she told a Cabinet Justice, Peace and Security cluster briefing soldiers had apprehended 3,200 undocumented foreigners, recovered 35 stolen vehicles, confiscated dagga with a street value of R9 million and arrested 55 suspected criminals in the first two months of the year.
In April soldiers on border protection duty confiscated more than R5 million worth of contraband goods, comprising low grade cigarettes, liquor and clothing.
The successes achieved by Operation Corona patrols were noted by SANDF Commander-in-Chief, President Jacob Zuma. He told this year’s Armed Forces Day parade in Potchefstroom: “The success was visible through the illegal weapons seized and the recovery of stolen vehicles and livestock.”