As from tomorrow the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will introduce into service a fleet of brand new Toyota Land Cruisers to patrol South Africa’s borders.
The first batch of vehicles was officially rolled out to Joint Operations during an event at Pongola, on the border with Swaziland, this morning.
By the second half of next year all 15 companies on Operation Corona border protection duty will have received their new vehicles, with 29 vehicles per company: 18 configured for troop transport, three in logistics configuration, four command and control variants and four ambulances. The new vehicles will replace Samils and supplement Toyota Hiluxes in service.
The first unit to get the new vehicles is 1 SA Tank regiment, according to Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant-General Barney Hlatshwayo. Initial rollout of the new vehicles will start on the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border, followed by the Mpumalanga/Mozambican border and then the Limpopo/Zimbabwean border.
Explaining the history of the new vehucles, the SANDF said it adapted Toyota Hilux vehicles for the border protection role around 2004 but the modifications voided the warranty. Upgraded vehicles were planned for 2006 but cancelled when the South African Police Service took over border protection duties. When the SANDF was tasked with this duty again in 2009, the requirements resurfaced.
Several vehicles were considered, including the Mercedes Sprinter, Ford Ranger F250, Toyota Hilux, Mitsubishi Colt, Nissan Navara and Isuzu 300D. The Land Cruiser was chosen due to its cost effectiveness, ease of support and ability to carry a 1 050 kg payload. Testing at Gerotek and in sandy and muddy conditions on the borders with Mozambique and Lesotho confirmed the Land Cruiser was up to the job.
Although resembling standard Land Cruisers, the new ‘mobility packages’ have been extensively modified after consultation with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR). They feature a roll frame, water tank and stowage areas as well as radio communications.
The 4×4 vehicles are modified by TFM and Angelo Kater in association with Toyota. The troop pack variants can carry a stick (five men) with an extra seat for a ranger or policr officer for interdepartmental operations. The logistics variant can carry 120 litres of water and 180 litres of diesel as well as other supplies. Additional communications equipment and power sources are fitted to the command and control variant, while the ambulance variant can accept one lying and two sitting patients or two lying patients. It is equipped with all the necessary basic medical equipment.
Mobility packages project manager Lieutenant Colonel Moore said the delivery of the vehicles is long overdue and that they will enhance the SANDF’s footprint and effectiveness on the border. “At the end of the day they will make everyone’s life easier,” he said.
Colonel Siphiwe Lucky Sangweni, in charge of local border patrol operations, told journalists and members of the SANDF that border safeguarding is vital to protect South Africa’s people, sovereignty and economy and stop the high influx of undocumented persons and contraband and preventing stolen goods leaving the country, especially vehicles to Mozambique.
He said the SANDF is on the borders not to arrest people but to prevent crimes from happening in the first place. This includes working with the police, Defence Intelligence, State Security Agency and local communities.
“Are we succeeding? Yes we are. The statistics show we are really making a serious difference.” However, he said challenges included the poor condition of the border fence in some areas, people crossing rivers in the drought and a lack of resources to adequately patrol long stretches of the border. Nevertheless he was confident these challenges were being overcome.
The delivery of the vehicles comes ahead of the busy festive season, when people leave South Africa and then illegally return from their home countries in the new year.
One of the reserve force soldiers on border protection duty told defenceWeb the new vehicles will address the shortage of Samils and improve the mobility and speed of soldiers on the border.