Pretoria – The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has reiterated that safeguarding and patrolling the national borders of South Africa is its responsibility “and not any other non-State grouping or groups”.
“The South African National Defence Force would like to reiterate what the Department of Home Affairs said, that it would be illegal for any civil organisation or NGO including business to conduct patrols at any borders of the Republic of South Africa,” said SANDF national spokesperson Siphiwe Dlamini.
“This follows a video that has been circulating on social media and other news platforms that alleges members of the AfriForum had taken the responsibility for border patrols.
“It must be stated that the Constitution of the Republic mandates the SANDF to protect and secure the territorial integrity of the Republic,” he said, adding that the military will do so by making sure that the country’s land, air and sea borders are protected and secured.
“It is the responsibility of the SANDF to maintain all borderline integrity of the country and not any other non-State grouping or groups. Therefore, the responsibility of borderline patrols belongs to the SANDF which is a statutory law enforcement agency, and that this responsibility cannot be ceded to business, NGOs or organisations,” said Dlamini.
He said the SANDF wants to assure all South Africans, in particular those living along the borders, that it will continue to secure the borderline “and will work with those communities namely; farmers, traditional leaders, business and community in general” to ensure that there is a coordinated effort to curb cross-border crime.
“However, it will not shed its responsibility given by the Constitution to protect and secure the integrity of the Republic to anybody or organisation,” said Dlamini.
Last week, the Department of Home Affairs sought to clarify “the misconception created about the patrolling of the border”, in particular along the Limpopo River.
“The department has become aware of the video which has been circulating on social media and other news platforms alleging that AfriForum has taken over the responsibility of patrolling the border line. This is blatantly untrue,” said Home Affairs spokesperson Siya Qoza.
“Members of AfriForum in Musina are patrolling their own farms which are neighbouring the border line. They are certainly not patrolling the general border line outside their farms. If they were doing so, it would have been illegal,” he said.
Qoza emphasised that the responsibility of patrolling the border line is that of statutory law enforcement agencies and they have not handed it over to any citizen or group of citizens.
“The department wishes to also state that in line with the commitments made by Minister Aaron Motsoaledi in his Budget Vote Speech for 2022/23, the Border Management Authority is proceeding with speed and has finalised the appointment of the first cohort of Border Guards who will be deployed along the vulnerable segments of the border line.
“The appointment of the Border Guards is another significant milestone in the implementation of the Border Management Authority,” he said.
Earlier this month, the civil rights group, AfriForum announced the launch of its new initiative “to help safeguard” South Africa’s borders.
“The Border Watch Initiative was established following the enormous support the organisation received after the premier of the documentary film Open Borders. The documentary depicted how poorly border control between South-Africa and Zimbabwe is applied and how AfriForum’s neighbourhood watches in this border area helps to safeguard the community,” said Jacques Broodryk, campaigns manager at AfriForum.
The Border Watch Initiative’s first course of action was to donate two sniffer dogs to AfriForum’s neighbourhood watch in Musina. Both dogs, Duke and Hailey, are trained trackers and Duke is specifically trained to sniff out firearms and drugs.
“Duke and Hailey will be valuable assets to strengthen the Musina neighbourhood watch’s methods to catch smugglers and seize their smuggled goods. The smugglers use the areas with dense bushes to cross the border and these sniffer dogs will assist the neighbourhood watch to quickly get on the trail of the smugglers,” said Broodryk.
“Duke will also help law enforcement during roadblocks because of his specific skills to sniff out firearms and drugs,” he said.
Broodryk said the Border Watch Initiative will also focus on strengthening and supporting AfriForum’s safety structures across the country.
AfriForum said various individuals and organisations have already indicated that they would like to sponsor equipment for the neighbourhood and farm watches in border areas.
“Between June and September of last year alone, AfriForum’s neighbourhood watch in Musina helped to seize smuggled goods with a total value of more than R12 million. This has a substantial impact on the illegal activities and, according to information we have received, some of these smugglers have thrown in the towel because of the resilience of our volunteers. This is an enormous success,” says Broodryk.
AfriForum said it has 155 safety structures across the country and more than 10 000 volunteers that play a massive role in safeguarding their communities.