Soldiers on border protection this year came across a new “product” being smuggled into South Africa – dagga seed.
While it is not clear – and no-one is prepared to go on record – it could be legalisation decriminalising personal possession of cannabis in September triggered a new market for smugglers who traditionally brought large quantities of the narcotic into South Africa.
In one instance soldiers on border protection duty found and confiscated a 200 litre drum of dagga seed.
“We simply cannot put a value on it because there are literally billions of seeds in the drum,” said Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, SANDF, Joint Operations Division, SO1, Operational Communication.
Another dagga seed haul saw 100kg of seed confiscated and soldiers in Mpumalanga confiscated six thousand dagga seedlings destined for the backyards and window planters of South Africans.
As part of regular Operation Corona patrols and interdiction operations along South Africa’s land borders soldiers regularly stop undocumented persons, as illegal immigrants are now known, and smugglers carrying dagga. This particular aspect of the operation this year netted more than eight thousand tons of cannabis with KwaZulu-Natal earning the dubious title of top dagga smuggling province. Soldiers confiscated just over three tons from smugglers while Free State, which borders Lesotho, accounted for 2.3 tons and Mpumalanga bordering Mozambique saw more than 1.5 tons of the narcotic taken from smugglers.
In its maritime sector, Operation Corona saw SA Navy, SA Air Force (SAAF) and SA Army personnel deployed for an intensive three week tasking in the Gansbaai area of the Western Cape.
No abalone poachers were apprehended during the operation, but national statistics indicate the presence of airmen, sailors and soldiers played a role in ensuring abalone valued at about R32 million stayed in the ocean.
The Free State and Eastern Cape borders with Lesotho were again the most “popular” for livestock rustling in 2018. Soldiers confiscated close on 1 500 head of cattle and about two thousand head of smaller livestock such as sheep and goats.
This year has also seen soldiers more active when it comes to recovering stolen vehicles destined for mostly Mozambique with 93 vehicles taken back from hijackers and other vehicle thieves at various points on the Mpumalanga/Mozambique border. Sixty-one stolen vehicles destined for Zimbabwe were confiscated/recovered in Limpopo.
All told the value of vehicles recovered by soldiers this year is over R41 million.
The total value of contraband soldiers seized is conservatively estimated at R41.4 million, Paxton said. This includes cigarettes, liquor, footwear and clothing (both branded and counterfeit).
Operation Corona’s original intent – to maintain the integrity of South Africa’s land borders – saw almost thirteen thousand undocumented persons detained and handed to Department of Home Affairs for further “processing”.