Komatipoort – Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula says Operation Corona has led to the reduction of rhino poaching and contraband worth millions of rands being seized.
The Minister said this when she spoke to journalists during a site visit to the South Africa-Mozambique border lines in Komatipoort, Mpumalanga, on Wednesday.
The Operation Corona border protection is a programme through which cross-country border agencies work together to curb cross border crime, from illegal immigrants to contraband.
The Minister said border authorities also curbed the smuggling of counterfeit goods and drugs, four-wheel drive vehicles and SUVs.
The Minister said through the cooperation with other law enforcement agencies, Operation Corona has led to R10 million worth of contraband being seized since March this year.
She said, however, that infrastructure challenges like the dilapidated fence makes the job of cross-border officials very difficult.
An increase in the country’s defence budget would go a long way to address these challenges, the Minister said.
“We are well equipped in protecting the country, regardless of the challenges we facing. We are also working with our counterparts in both Mozambique and Swaziland in making sure that we fight the crimes together.
“When we talk about more resources for the defence force, is not because we want to militarise … the Republic. It is because we want to protect our country,” she said.
The Minister also said cross border operations would be effective if all of the 22 companies that are seized with the task of patrolling borders could be deployed to the operation.
Currently, and due to a limited number of resources, only 15 companies are deployed along border lines.
She said, however, that despite the challenges, South Africans must be rest assured that the country is safe and that their soldiers are well equipped to protect the country.
During her visit, the Minister interacted with the Mbuzini community bordering Mozambique and Swaziland and assured them that working together with the soldiers, they will be able to tackle cross-border crimes.
“We came here to talk to you and let you know that as the defence force, we are trying by all means to protect you.
“We know that your cars and livestock are being smuggled through these borders either to Swaziland or Mozambique. We want you to be eyes and ears of the state. Let’s fight these crimes together,” she said.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula said, meanwhile, that members of the community should be used to supply food and other necessities in military bases close to them.
She said if the country wants to maintain economic stability near areas from which they operate, there is a need for the defence budget to be increased.