Residents of Riverside, an informal settlement nestled near the Lesotho-South Africa border along the Caledon River, have voiced their concerns to IOL, citing fear due to the passage of illegal immigrants through their homes.
The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), operating under Operation Corona from the Ladybrand military base, recently conducted media-involved border patrols at the Maseru entry port into Lesotho.
The Defence Force underscores the aim of these operations: cracking down on various cross-border crimes, including dagga smuggling, vehicle theft, undocumented crossings, and activities associated with the zama- zamas, ensuring increased security along the border with neighbouring countries.
Dineo Mphe, a 52-year-old resident of Riverside, told IOL of her concerns about the surge in illicit activities occurring in their vicinity. She expressed distress over individuals from Lesotho and South Africa using their community as a route to evade border regulations.
Mphe highlighted incidents of livestock theft, robberies, and illicit trade taking place in the absence of military presence, shedding light on the challenges faced by the local community in ensuring safety and security.
"They steal cows and transport them illegally across both countries. Sometimes, farmers inquire if we've seen a herd of passing cows. It's distressing, but we too own cows and cannot afford to lose them," Mphe recounted.
Mphe recounted a distressing incident she witnessed: "I saw a woman screaming and being robbed by boys near the river. It's that dire. As a woman with daughters, we live in constant fear, yet the presence of men and boys in our area brings some comfort."
She stressed how crucial it was to have soldiers conducting patrols day and night for the community to feel safe. Despite this reliance, the neighbourhood faces daunting challenges: inadequate access to clean water, sanitation, electricity shortages, and houses in disrepair with multiple structural issues.
The South African National Defence Force acknowledged the residents' cooperation in providing crucial information, aiding their investigative efforts.