In yet another addition to the Operation Corona border protection tasking, soldiers from 9 SA Infantry Battalion assisted police and provincial nature conservation in a major dagga bust in Mpumalanga.
The soldiers working in the Mpumalanga area of responsibility Joint Tactical HQ were, along with their national and provincial law enforcement colleagues, responsible for destroying close on 22 000 dagga plants with an estimated street value when turned into product of just on R22 million.
9 SAI Charlie Company soldiers deployed on the tasking in the Barberton, Ekulindi, area of Mpumalanga, worked with South African Police Service (SAPS) members from the provincial and Elukwatini visible policing units, the Nelspruit air wing, Ermelo crime intelligence and Songimvelo game reserve. The reserve is Mpumalanga’s largest provincial nature reserve.
The dagga plantation of mainly juvenile plants in homemade hothouses and in the open was laid waste by chemical spraying.
Captain Lwazi Malgas of Mpumalanga Joint Tactical HQ said it was still illegal to cultivate dagga in South Africa for commercial use. In September last year the Constitutional court decriminalised cultivation and use of dagga in private space and specified a 24 month window for the amendment of South African law regarding cannabis.
When the border protection tasking Operation Corona was handed back to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) after the national police service abdicated the tasking, the primary role of the operation was to prevent undocumented persons or “illegal immigrants” from entering the country. This has grown to include confiscation of contraband (ranging from cigarettes and liquor through to clothing and footwear), recovery of stolen vehicles, livestock and weapons as well as seizing narcotics, mainly dagga, in the 10 years soldiers have been deployed along South Africa’s landward borders.
There are currently 15 companies deployed on this tasking and budgetary restrictions make it unlikely the target of 22 will be reached.
Picture: Captain Madelaine Frazer