SANDF border deployment growing


Safeguarding South Africa’s borders is one of the key tasks of the South African National Defence Force, which has approximately 1 500 members in seven units currently deployed on the borders. This is set to increase to 15 sub-units in the next couple of years, with additional funding being allocated for this purpose.

At the moment there are seven sub-units are deployed in Limpopo, Mpumalanga, KwaZulu-Natal and the Free State Provinces, comprising approximately 1 500 SANDF members, according to the Department of Defence Annual Report for the period 1 April 2011 to 31 March 2012.

Border safeguarding is being rolled out under Operation Corona, with phase three currently underway. Phase one of the border safeguarding initiative witnessed deployments on the South Africa/Zimbabwe borderline.

Phase two saw the SANDF deploy on the Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho borders, with two sub-units to Limpopo (Pontdrift and Musina), two sub-units to Mpumalanga (Macadamia and Skukuza), two sub-units to Kwa-Zulu- Natal (Ndumo and Pongola) and one sub-unit to the Free State (Ladybrand). Phase three, which began on April 1, is also focusing on these borders.

By 2013, the Lesotho/Free State border will be covered, to be followed by the Lesotho/KwaZulu-Natal border in 2014. The subsequent phases will ensure that 11 sub-units will be deployed in FY2012/13 and 15 sub-units in years after in line with the Medium Term Expenditure Framework (MTEF).

Operation Corona includes the combating of cross border crime, stock theft, illegal grazing, and anti-rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park. According to the Department of Defence (DoD), the SANDF achieved some success in this regard for the 2011/12 financial year. Corona resulted in the apprehension of 16 850 illegal immigrants, the arrest of 368 criminals and the confiscation of 9 068 kg dagga. 60 stolen vehicles, eight weapons (including a .275 rifle and 9 mm pistol), 1 394 livestock and 453kg of copper cable were recovered and contraband goods to the value of R14 695 413 were seized.

As part of border safeguarding, anti-poaching operations were conducted in the Kruger National Park with an emphasis on combating rhino poaching. The deployment of the SANDF resulted in 11 poachers killed, 22 poachers arrested, as well as the confiscation of 19 hunting rifles including AK-47 assault rifles.

In spite of successes, the Department of Defence cautioned in its annual report that “the roll-out of border safeguarding will remain a challenge as this will completely overstretch the SA Army’s deployable capabilities and will restrict the SA Army’s conventional capabilities in their secondary role in future.”

Due to the increased tempo of border deployments, as well as external peacekeeping operations, the South African Army in the 2011/2012 financial year used 10 090 Reserve members to make up for the shortfall in Regular members. A total of 15 316 SANDF Reserves were called up between April 2011 and March 2012, for border and peacekeeping operations as well as registering military veterans.

The DoD noted that additional funding will have to be allocated to ensure all 15 sub-units are adequately prepared to safeguard the borders. An additional R100 million for this task was allocated in the 2011/12 defence budget vote. In 2012/13 the DoD will request an additional R236 million for this task and an additional R357 million in 2013/14.
“Consequent to a cabinet decision in 2009 to utilise the military in border safeguarding tasks, the SANDF continues to register milestone achievements in this function,” stated General Solly Shoke, Chief of the South African National Defence Force. “In essence cross-border crime is on the decline, notwithstanding the fact that only four of the six borderline areas are covered. Our phased approach in the implementation of border safeguarding will gradually extend to the rest of the borderline areas with the speed allowed by the provided resources.”

Since taking over border safeguarding duties from the South African Police Service, this task has become very important to the SANDF, so much so that the Department of Defence drafted a Border Management Strategy document. This was recently handed over to the Defence Review Committee for integration into the draft Defence Review.