Basotho without the necessary travel documentation regularly feature in the top three of people from countries neighbouring South Africa who are stopped by soldiers deployed on the national border protection tasking Operation Corona.
October was no different with soldiers on the Eastern Cape and Free State borders apprehending 233 Basotho illegally making their way into South Africa. Statistics supplied by the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) show similar numbers for those illegally exiting the landlocked mountain kingdom over the nine months prior to October. Only Mozambique and Zimbabwe see more illegal immigrants entering South Africa before being stopped and handed to police and Department of Home Affairs (DHA) immigration officials.
This could change in the wake of the first inaugural Lesotho/South Africa bi-national commission meeting late in September where “migration models” were discussed.
Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) public representative Mkhuleko Hlengwa was told by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi “joint research” will establish how best to manage migration with reasons being all movement between Lesotho and third countries involves South African transit as well as “regular movement between the peoples of the country on a daily basis”. Timelines for the research are expected this month (November).
Joint Operations statistics reveal SANDF soldiers patrolling the South Africa/Zimbabwe border in October stopped 247 Zimbabweans from reaching in-country destinations while 33 Mozambicans were apprehended, down substantially from the 428 apprehended in September.
All told, soldiers, with assistance from police and DHA customs officers, confiscated contraband, usually cigarettes, liquor, counterfeit clothing and footwear as well as medication and prescription drugs, worth more than R6 million on five national land borders in October.
Livestock theft, while still happening as evidenced by the recovery of R1.3 million worth of cattle on the Lesotho/Free State border last month, has largely been replaced by “illegal grazing” in South Africa close to the borders with Botswana and Zimbabwe. Twenty-three head of cattle valued at R157 000 were returned to the rightful owners in Botswana with R1 million plus worth of livestock sent back across the Limpopo River after being found on South African pastureland.
Operation Corona sees 15 companies of mainly infantry – regular and reserves – deployed on South Africa’s terrestrial borders to, among others, maintain the country’s territorial integrity. The deployment costs around R1 billion a year, Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) was told.