Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula has said that Operation Corona, a collaboration between border management agencies from South Africa, Mozambique and Swaziland, was yielding good returns.
The Minister said this when she fielded questions for oral reply, along with Ministers in the Social Services cluster, at the National Council of Provinces on Tuesday.
The SA National Defence Force is currently deploying 15 companies for Operation Corona to safeguard the Republic of South African boarders through mobile and foot patrols, supported by the border police of the South African Police Service, traffic departments, the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries.
“Now, because we are not working alone, we are working with other government departments, we have had operational successes.
“In the year 2016/17, we have confiscated illegal weapons; we have confiscated dagga; we have apprehended illegal foreigners; a total of 6570 for that financial year; we have recovered 84 vehicles, we have confiscated contraband worth R13 million plus; and of course you would know that in the area of Kruger National Park, we are also working very closely with the Department of Environmental Affairs with the rangers to prevent people who are coming in for Rhino poaching,” she said.
The minister last week visited soldiers deployed on border protection in Mpumalanga and said more than R10 million worth of contraband was confiscated since March. According to Mapisa-Nqakula one of the bigger problems facing soldiers attempting to keep illegals out are dilapidated fences and – as ever – a lack of funds.
“An increase in the defence budget would go a long way to address the challenges. We are well equipped to protect the country regardless of the challenges faced,” the minister said. “We are also working with our counterparts in both Mozambique and Swaziland in making sure that we fight the crimes together.”
The budget shortfall is the main contributor to there currently being 15 companies, the majority of them from Reserve Force units, deployed on Operation Corona duties. The Department of Defence plans to deploy 22 companies in total on border protection over the medium term, but no extra funding has been allocated for the current financial year.