Soldiers net dagga and rhino horn on border protection patrols


The thin camouflage line that is South Africa’s major border protection asset continues to perform under adverse conditions in both terrain and resource terms.

Earlier this month defenceWeb reported the apprehension of more than 3 000 illegal immigrants over a two month period as well as confiscation of contraband valued at over R8 million.

This week soldiers patrolling the South Africa/Swaziland border in the vicinity of the Oshoek border post arrested eight suspects and confiscated 29 kg of dagga destined for South African users of the illegal plant.

This brings to the total amount of dagga seized this year to 2 029 kg in contacts along the Swazi, Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders.

Troops deployed on the Operation Corona border protection tasking have as a secondary duty assisting rangers and other law enforcement agencies in counter-poaching activities, concentrating on the lucrative rhino horn market.

Twice this month soldiers have had success on their secondary task, once in the Kruger National Park and the other on the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border.
“A call from Kruger rangers to elements of 1 Parachute Battalion saw a stick despatched to support the rangers after suspected poacher spoor was found.
“Three suspects were apprehended and another shot and wounded,” Captain (SAN) Jaco Theunissen, SANDF Joint Operations spokesman, said.

In the second rhino related incident, soldiers from 10 SA Infantry Battalion patrolling the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border spotted three men carrying three rhino horns.
“When they saw the soldiers the men dropped the horns and fled on foot. They managed to escape and the horns were handed to police at Manguzi,” Theunissen said.

This year has seen Operation Corona move to the South African borders with Botswana and Namibia in line with its planned expansion since taking back the border protection tasking, as instructed by Cabinet, from the SA Police Service.

Soldiers from both the full-time and Reserve Force are now deployed along South Africa’s borders with Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho as well as the country’s north-western international borders. They are supported by SA Air Force assets.

Meanwhile, a former SANParks field sergeant and two police constables have been arrested in the Kruger National Park (KNP) in regard to poaching. Park rangers and the Endangered Species Team of the Hawks were on their routine duties when they came across a black rhino carcass in the park on Tuesday morning.

The team pulled over a marked Skukuza police van, carrying the two police constables, after receiving information. On searching the van, a person suspected of being a poacher, who was armed with a .375 hunting rifle and rounds of ammunition, was found, SANews reports.
“When the constables were asked about the man and the rifle, they could not give a satisfactory explanation and were arrested,” a joint statement by the Environmental Affairs, the Hawks and South African National Parks (SANParks) said on Wednesday.

Since January 1, the KNP has lost 272 rhinos to poachers and 52 individuals have been arrested. A total of 419 rhinos have been poached in South Africa so far this year.

Of this, 48 rhinos have been killed in Limpopo, 41 in KwaZulu-Natal and 26 in North West. A total of 119 people have been arrested in connection with rhino poaching.