More SANDF troops for the borders


The South African National Defence Force will deploy two more companies in the Northern Cape and North West Provinces as part of Phase 4 of the border safeguarding Operation Corona. This will increase the number of companies on the borders from 11 to 13, involving around 2 000 soldiers.

This will take place in 2013/14, according to Lieutenant General Derrick M Mgwebi, Chief of Joint Operations, who briefed the media in Pretoria this morning.

At present there are 11 sub-units deployed along South Africa’s borders, with a total of 1 800 soldiers. They are deployed along the borders with Lesotho, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zimbabwe (there are no troops on the borders with Namibia and Botswana).

Border safeguarding is being rolled out under Operation Corona, with phase three currently underway. Phase one of the border safeguarding initiative witnessed deployments on the South Africa/Zimbabwe borderline.

Phase two saw the SANDF deploy on the Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho borders, with two sub-units to Limpopo (Pontdrift and Musina), two sub-units to Mpumalanga (Macadamia and Skukuza), two sub-units to Kwa-Zulu- Natal (Ndumo and Pongola) and one sub-unit to the Free State (Ladybrand). Phase three, which began on April 1, is also focusing on these borders. By 2013, the Lesotho/Free State border will be covered, to be followed by the Lesotho/KwaZulu-Natal border in 2014.

At present, Corona sub-units are deployed to Ladybrand, Fouriesburg, Maluti, Pongola, Ndumo, Zonstraal, Macadamia, Sandriver, Madimbo, Musina and Pontdrift.

In addition to soldiers, around 80 engineers are deployed to maintain the Nabob fences on the borders with Zimbabwe and Mozambique. Four battalion headquarters (one in Musina, Sandriver, Ladybrand and Pongola) manage the Operation Corona border deployments.

Mgwebi gave a detailed breakdown of the successes of operation corona over the past two years. For FY2010/11, the SANDF seized R63.6 million worth of contraband goods, ten weapons, 230 kg of dagga, 76 livestock, 463 kg of precious metals, arrested 403 criminals, recovered 22 stolen vehicles and apprehended 20 107 undocumented persons.

For the FY2011/12 year, 15 904 undocumented persons were recorded while R29.5 million worth of contraband goods were seized; 19 firearms were recovered; 8 682 kg of dagga were seized, 61 stolen vehicles and 453 kg of precious metals were recovered while 414 criminals were arrested. 1 373 livestock were confiscated.

The FY2012/13 year has not yet ended but so far Operation Corona has recorded 13 316 undocumented persons and 8 630 livestock, recovered 64 stolen vehicles, arrested 371 criminals, and seized R13 million worth of contraband goods, 28 weapons, 2.8 tons of dagga and 212 kg of precious metals. 64 stolen vehicles have been recovered and 28 weapons seized.

Most illegal activity recorded on the borders took place in the Mpumalanga, Limpopo and Free State provinces.

Operation Rhino, in the Kruger Park, is aimed at combating rhino poaching. Mgwebi said a challenge was that most of the poachers are Mozambicans who are merely just operators on the ground while the ‘big guns’ are elsewhere and need to be stopped by the police, as the SANDF presence is just to deter them on the ground.

According to Joint Ops, in the first quarter of the year, seven suspected poachers were arrested and five killed as part of Operation Rhino, while two hunting rifles were seized. In the second quarter of the year, 20 suspected poachers were arrested and five killed, while nine rifles, one AK-47 assault rifle, and a backpack with four rhino horns were seized.

With regard to Operation Copper, the anti-piracy patrol in the Mozambique Channel, Mgwebi said that the South African Navy was patrolling with ships while the South African Air Force has a maritime patrol aircraft (C-47TP) in the region. Special Forces are also involved and their expertise in boarding vessels is particularly valued.

Mgwebi pointed out the vast distances involved in safeguarding the borders: the land border is 4 471 km long while the sea border is 2 798 km long. He said that South Africa would never have a force to cover the entire border in terms of men on the ground, but instead of trying to put men on the ground, the SANDF needed to use technology as a force multiplier.

Due to the increased tempo of border deployments, as well as external peacekeeping operations, the South African Army in the 2011/2012 financial year used 10 090 Reserve members to make up for the shortfall in Regular members. A total of 15 316 SANDF Reserves were called up between April 2011 and March 2012, for border and peacekeeping operations as well as registering military veterans.

The DoD noted that additional funding will have to be allocated to ensure all 15 sub-units of Operation Corona are adequately prepared to safeguard the borders. An additional R100 million for this task was allocated in the 2011/12 defence budget vote. In 2012/13 the DoD will request an additional R236 million for this task and an additional R357 million in 2013/14.

Since taking over border safeguarding duties from the South African Police Service, this task has become very important to the SANDF, so much so that the Department of Defence drafted a Border Management Strategy document. This was recently handed over to the Defence Review Committee for integration into the draft Defence Review.