The South African Army is working hard to deploy an additional two companies on border protection duty in line with the defence minister’s plans in spite of the fact that no extra funding has been made available for this purpose.
Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula in her budget vote in May this year said that an additional two companies would be deployed on Operation Corona border protection duties, bringing the number up to 15.
South African Army Chief Lieutenant General Vusimuzi Masondo last week in response to a defenceWeb question said that the army is “working hard to make that a reality.” He said that the Army is looking at generating savings in order to channel that money to realise the minister’s goal as the Army has not received additional funding for the extra companies.
At the moment there are around 2 000 soldiers in 13 companies deployed along all South Africa’s landward borders – Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. Another two companies would result in roughly an extra 340 soldiers deploying.
“Demands for the services of the military are ever increasing. At home the defence force continues to deploy 13 companies for border safeguarding duties. These 13 companies must be expanded to 22 to execute the full border safeguarding requirement. Due to budgetary constraints we have not met this expanded requirement. It is our intention to expand this by an extra two companies in this financial year,” Mapisa-Nqakula told MPs in her budget speech in May.
Depending on which border soldiers have to patrol and safeguard, a company can be as many as 180 strong, including engineers and other specialist musterings. As an example, soldiers deployed at Upington and tasked with patrolling the Namibia/South Africa border, will number more than those deployed at, say the Macadamia base on the Mozambique/South Africa border. This is because of better infrastructure at Macadamia to support the deployment.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), with the SA Army in the forefront, has been government’s go-to department for border protection since 2008/09 when this task was taken away from the SA Police Service. Elements of the SA Air Force, mostly helicopters, are also deployed to assist in border protection. In addition to border protection, soldiers deployed in the Kruger National Park assist rangers with anti-rhino poaching operations.