Asked at a media briefing this week why he saw no soldiers on a visit to the Kruger National Park and why the fence between Mozambique and South Africa was “just about non-existent” the country’s top soldier pointed to the ongoing budgetary constraints of the national defence force as a contributor.
General Solly Shoke told the representative of a Tshwane media outlet there just wasn’t sufficient funding to ensure a proper fence along the border. He said there are soldiers in the country’s premier game reserve assisting rangers with anti-poaching operations and “there would be more if we had the money”.
This “admission” drew response from opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow defence and military veterans minister, Kobus Marais, who said the lack of resources to secure South Africa’s border was of “great concern”.
According to Marais, Shoke “admitted the SANDF does not have the resources or adequate equipment” adding “our porous borders are not under our military’s control”.
He said this was “a critical shortcoming” showing little was being done about cross-border crime and illegal immigration.
“President (Cyril) Ramaphosa, as Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF, together with his Cabinet and generals, must present a plan of action detailing the steps being taken to strengthen the army’s capacity to protect the people of South Africa. We call on the ANC government to urgently make a public statement on our porous borders.
“While billions of rand continues to be wasted on zombie state-owned enterprises, we must rethink our priorities and ensure investment into the SANDF so we can secure our borders. We cannot afford further delays and we cannot afford to leave our borders unguarded,” Marais said.
Operation Corona, the national border protection tasking, currently has 15 companies deployed along South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Troops at some border protection bases are equipped with the new mobility packages, modified soft-skin Toyota Landcruisers, with the remainder making do with Nissan 4X4 utility vehicles. Horses, dogs and motorcycles are also deployed to Operation Corona.