Two Op Corona busts in a week for newly deployed Johannesburg Regiment
Just a week into a border protection deployment, Reserve Force unit Johannesburg Regiment notched up a pair of successes that will hopefully set the standard for the rest of its time in Mpumalanga. The first bust, executed in conjunction with police based at Mahamba police station, happened at a vehicle checkpoint on the N2 near the Mahamba border post. “During a stop and search operation a silver Mercedes-Benz sedan was one of many vehicles stopped. A search brought to light two rhino horns with a combined value over more than R6 million,” SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations Division, Staff Officer operational communications, Lieutenant Colonel Piet Paxton said. The second success of the brief deployment to date came a day later during routine foot patrols. The patrols are a deterrent to would-be illegal border crossers and soldiers have previously managed to apprehend undocumented people as well as confiscate goods illegally destined for informal markets in South Africa. Sharp eyes from the patrol tasked with working the Mbuzini main road spotted so-called cigarette master boxes hidden in vegetation off the roadside. A conservative estimate puts the value of the seized cigarettes at R90 000. The contraband was handed to customs officials at the Lebombo border post. “These two successes show the commitment of Johannesburg Regiment members, under the command of Lieutenant Colonel Zwelibanzi Sithabathaba,” Captain Lwazi Malgas, staff officer operational communications at Mpumalanga Joint Tactical HQ, said. Johannesburg Regiment replaced another Reserve Force unit, First City Regiment headquartered in Grahamstown, on the national border protection tasking Operation Corona along the South Africa/Mozambique/Swaziland borders. Major General Roy Andersen, Chief Defence Reserves, said after a planning and budgeting work session in Durban in February “significant cuts” in man days for South Africa’s part-time soldiers could impact negatively on future Op Corona deployments, the majority of which are filled by Reserve Force units. There are currently 14 companies deployed on border protection and the Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) released during the national budget in February show no increase in boots on the ground patrolling South Africa’s borders for the current financial year.