The feeling “something’s not right” proved 100% correct for a pair of South African military police deployed on border protection at Macadamia base.
The pair, attached to a company from 2 SA Infantry Battalion at Zeerust, were summoned to the Lebombo point of entry (POE) in the early hours of Tuesday, January 26, after other government personnel on duty at the port of entry started to voice suspicions about a Toyota Hino parked there.
“It appears the vehicle had been driven into South Africa and then parked and left at the POE,” said Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff Officer, Operational Communications at SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division headquarters.
“A call was made to Macadamia and the company commander dispatched two MPs to Lebombo to investigate. On arrival at the border post they, working in conjunction with SA Revenue Services officials, moved the vehicle to the SARS warehouse where the covered load-bay was opened.”
Inside the loading area soldiers and SARS personnel found more than twenty-nine thousands pairs of trainers and running shoes. Brands include Puma, Nike, Jordan, All Star, Vans and 20,165 pairs of Adidas.
Samples have been taken and sent to specialist legal firms to ascertain whether the goods are counterfeit or not so the initial valuation of around R23 million could change.
Three Mozambicans, one of whom apparently told police he was the driver of the truck, have been interviewed by police based at Komatipoort and their vehicle, a Toyota Corolla, as well as the truck have been impounded while the investigation continues.
The South African National Defence Force is tasked with patrolling South Africa’s 4,471 km land border with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe as part of Operation Corona. 13 infantry companies supported by four battalion headquarters currently undertake border patrol duties. The majority of patrol work is done in specially adapted 4×4 bakkies with foot patrols, observation posts and a smattering of aerial support from the SA Air Force. Units deployed in the Kruger National Park have the additional task of assisting the ranger corps in anti-poaching operations, concentrating on rhino poachers.
The Department of Defence plans to deploy an additional two sub-units (companies) and raise the number to 15 in the current financial year through cash flow management.
Soldiers deployed on border protection have confiscated illegal weapons, apprehended foreign nationals, arrested criminals, recovered stolen vehicles and livestock and confiscated dagga and contraband goods. Contraband valued at just on R12 million was seized by soldiers in the first nine months of last year.
As far as personnel are concerned, Joint Operations notes that 2,475 uniformed members of the SANDF are currently deployed on Corona duties. The majority (1,938) are men and just under half the total deployment consists of Reserve Force members.