Low-tech proves effective for KZN/Mozambique border protection

Old-fashioned South African inventiveness has seen implementation of a decidedly low-tech but surprisingly effective border protection tool on the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border. A 30 km section of the border has long been a thorn in the side of soldiers deployed on border protection as part of the wider Operation Corona tasking, specifically as far as vehicles illegally being taken out of South Africa is concerned. Lieutenant Colonel “Wollie” Wolmarans, Staff Officer Operational Planning at SANDF Joint Operations KZN tactical headquarters, said the border fence was regularly cut to allow easy access to neighbouring Mozambique. In September 2015, despite the best efforts of soldiers, police and local communities it was reported that vehicles were being lost at the rate of up to 80 a month. The first effort to plug this hole was using railway sleepers as additional border barriers. This helped but when Wolmarans was making a call on a crusher operation in Ndumo he saw another – better – solution.

“The crusher operator was loading rocks of between 150 and 200 kg onto trucks. I asked and was told they [were] going to be dumped,” Wolmarans said, and a “stop the bus” moment materialised. “I asked if we (the military) could collect them and place them along the border as additional barriers to prevent vehicles being illegally moved across. The rest, as they say, is history and we have now reached a point when no more than 20 stolen vehicles a month get past us.” The large rocks are strategically placed on the commonly used routes. In time the entire 30 km section of border will have the extra fortifications to cut down even further on the movement of stolen vehicles. “The placement of the rocks, as simple as it seems, has had a marked effect on vehicle recovery. Additional rocks are placed on a constant basis in different areas to close the gaps. The criminal is never sure which area is closed or safe to use,” he said. Wolmarans is of the opinion additional Samil 100s fitted with cranes will see the project, codenamed Operation Ilitshe, go forward quicker and “close this border permanently”.

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