SANDF soldiers curb contraband pipelines

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South African National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers deployed along South Africa’s land borders with Lesotho and Zimbabwe had their hands full preventing over R10 million worth of contraband from reaching largely unregulated markets in and around major population concentrations in June.

Landlocked Lesotho is bordered by the Free State and Eastern Cape provinces with companies of regular and Reserve Force units deployed along both. These soldiers, at times working alongside Border Management Authority (BMA) border guards and SA Police Service (SAPS) specialist border units, confiscated the contraband, not specified by the Joint Operations Division of the SANDF but usually including cigarettes, liquor, pharmaceuticals as well as branded – fake –clothing and footwear, with R1.4 million worth taken from smugglers seemingly aiming for the Buffalo City and Gqeberha metropoles. Free State’s Mangaung metro, incorporating Bloemfontein, is 130 km away and seen as a major market for contraband, usually cheaper than locally available options due to non-payment of excise or import duties.

Along the 233 km Limpopo/Zimbabwe land borders, soldiers doing Operation Corona border protection duties confiscated R9.2 million worth of again, unspecified contraband, from smugglers. This is R5 million more than reported confiscated on the same stretch of border by the Joint Operations Division in May.

Narcotics, again types and quantities not specified, valued at just over R2 million was confiscated from smugglers attempting to illegally enter South Africa from Eswatini, Mozambique and Zimbabwe.

Preventing illegal immigration was the sole original Operation Corona tasking and remains a major objective with 511 “undocumented persons” intercepted by patrolling soldiers acting on intelligence garnered from observation posts (OPs) and information supplied by local residents.

June saw the 500 plus illegals prevented from accessing South Africa via its borders with Botswana (six); the KwaZulu-Natal borders with Eswatini and Mozambique (15); Mozambique/Mpumalanga (174); Zimbabwe (257) and Lesotho, Free State and Eastern Cape (279). All told, soldiers, in some instances working with police and border guards, intercepted 50 more illegals last month than in April before handing them to Department of Home Affairs (DHA) immigration officials.

Stolen vehicles – makes, models and numbers not given – worth over R400 000 were stopped from illegally exiting South Africa en route to Botswana, Eswatini and Mozambique in June.