Contraband, dagga and illegals all grabbed in Op Corona net
It’s been business as usual in the first seven weeks of the year for soldiers deployed on border protection, with contraband valued at over R2 million confiscated and more than 2 500 undocumented persons apprehended. There are, as Defence Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula told Parliament before the end of the last financial year, 15 companies currently deployed on South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe in terms of Operation Corona, the ongoing border protection tasking the SA National Defence Force took over from the SA Police Service some 16 years ago. Command and control is vested in four tactical battalion headquarters. Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton, Staff Officer Class 1 Operational Communication, Joint Operations Division, said traditionally the period immediately following the Christmas holidays was quieter than normal but soldiers still mounted daily patrols which saw fake and branded clothing, cigarettes and other contraband “conservatively valued” at R2.146 million confiscated. More than 2 200 kg of dagga valued at R3.5 million was taken from smugglers aiming to put the illegal product on South African streets. The would-be smugglers also found themselves in police custody. The first seven weeks of the year also saw soldiers involved in the apprehension and handing over to police of 30 known criminals. Eighteen stolen vehicles, valued at more than R3 million, were also recovered.
Soldiers working alongside rangers in the Kruger National Park were involved in the seizure of five firearms, bot rifles and handguns, from suspected poachers. “This was in addition to a number of axes, pangas and camping equipment taken from suspected poachers,” he said. Joint Operations is currently busy with the planning phase of the biannual rotation for Op Corona forces, set for April this year. While there has not yet been any indication of an increase in force levels for border protection in the coming financial year, an SANDF Reserves Division planning session heard of significant cuts in man days available for Reserve call-ups which could impact on Corona. In related news, suspected illegal cigarettes worth R18 million were seized at the weekend in Johannesburg, the South African Revenue Service (SARS) said on Tuesday.Customs and excise officials detained the cigarettes on Friday. “A total of 1 647 master cases of suspected illegal cigarettes were detained pending further investigation. The possible duties in respect of these cigarettes amounts to approximately R11 million,” said the revenue service.