Recovery of stolen livestock and vehicles, confiscation of contraband and apprehension of “undocumented persons” remain the major components of the work done by soldiers protecting South Africa’s land borders.
In April the 15 companies of mostly infantry soldiers, with good Reserve Force unit representation, prevented 2 472 people not legally allowed in South Africa from doing so. According to the Directorate: Corporate Communication (DCC) of the national defence force over half the illegal immigrants were from Mozambique and were apprehended in Mpumalanga. Soldiers do not have the power of arrest and those apprehended are handed to police and Department of Home Affairs officials for further processing, which can include arrest, incarceration or deportation.
Soldiers manning the Mozambique land border confiscated unspecified narcotics valued at R3.7 million in the fourth month of the year and also took contraband goods, again not specified but generally cigarettes, liquor and clothing, worth R3.6 million from cross-border smugglers.
Landlocked Lesotho is bordered by the Free State and Eastern Cape with soldiers deployed along both national boundaries. Livestock theft and invasion of grazing land is common as soldiers again showed when they recovered 129 head of livestock, valued at over half a million Rand. According to the SANDF communicators, 25 stolen vehicles worth R5.6 million were recovered on the Eastern Cape/Lesotho border with an official response to an online publication enquiry adding they “were intercepted and recovered prior to illegally crossing the border in Limpopo between RSA/Zimbabwe border, KwaZulu-Natal at the RSA/Mozambique/Eswatini borders and most from Mpumalanga along RSA/Mozambique border”.
Soldiers on patrol, manning observation points and mounting search and seize operations along South Africa’s land borders are there in terms of the Defence Act with prescribed rules of engagement (ROEs). Asked for detail, DCC’s response was to say the Op Corona deployment is to “effect national border control, defend and protect the Republic of South Africa, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force”.
The explanation goes on to state: “The priority is to deter, prevent and stop cross-border criminality on the borderline and apprehend anyone found to be involved in any form or type of illegal or criminal activities”.