An SANDFpatrol monitors the Lebombo border.
An SANDFpatrol monitors the Lebombo border.
An officer peers across the Olifants River.
An officer peers across the Olifants River.
DEFENCE Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s warning that the effectiveness of the SA National Defence (SANDF) would be hampered following its budget cut of R5.8billion is starting to show on the ground.

Earlier in the year, Mapisa-Nqakula complained of her department’s continually declining budget, which she said made it difficult to implement the targets of the 2015 Defence Review.

One of the roles of the SANDF is to defend the republic’s borders. Major Khululekile Qotyana, who is stationed near the Lebombo entry port, said despite having limited resources, they had to deal with numerous challenges.

He was speaking during a media tour to the area.

These included cross-border movement of undocumented persons and contraband, the involvement of international syndicates in border violations, as well as schoolchildren crossing between South Africa and Mozambique illegally.

Members also deal with high levels of cross-border crimes in the Macadamia borderline and an increase of rhino poaching activities along the eastern border of Kruger National Park.

To make it worse, locals disregarded the 10km zone demarcation, with settlements sprawled around the borderline, thus allowing undocumented persons to cross the border freely.

Qotyana said the situation within the Kruger National Park continued to be unpredictable, and even with the security measures in place, illegal activities continued to take place.

Despite having fewer troops and a limited budget, he said the members were trying their best to the extent that there had on a more positive note been a decrease in the number of incursions both in and out of the borderline due to members’ mobility patrols.

The patrols were, according to him, given a boost two months prior when 50 more troop packs were donated, bringing the tally up to 75 packs.

However, it still remains a daunting challenge for the members as those packs have to patrol 780km of mountainous borderline.

“Olifants River is being utilised as a new entry point by poachers. This indicates that the illegal entries have shifted elsewhere. Plans are under way to deploy forces along the Olifants River by the end of the month,” Qotyana said. SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi said the military had to cover over 4000km of South Africa’s borders, which meant they needed more people deployed to keep borders safe.

He said the police took over borderline duty for a period. But when the role reverted to the SANDF, they did not get the required budget back.

“We were given the task, but not the money to do so effectively,” he said. Mgobozi said the country had to take into consideration needs such as education, health and grants, but security was as important.

“We are doing the best we can with our resources, but that is until something happens and realise the defence force also needs funds.”