Despite the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) being in dire need of billions of rands to up their border control, soldiers say they are trying their best to curb drug smuggling and rhino poaching.
Since soldiers started patrolling 4 000km of land borders, at least 400 people have been arrested for wildlife crimes such as elephant and rhino poaching on the Mpumalanga/Mozambique border this year.
From January, 344 rhinos and 65 elephants were killed, but 156 weapons were seized.
An additional three hornless rhino carcasses were discovered at the Kruger National Park this week.
Only 15 SANDF companies cover the lengthy borders.
They are deployed to combat wildlife crimes, apprehend undocumented persons, recover stolen vehicles and seize contraband.
Last month, Chief of the SA Army Lieutenant – General Lindile Yam said the defence force required an additional R50 billion to properly defend and protect the country’s borders.
According to SANDF spokesperson Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi, lack of budget was hampering protection efforts.
Mgobozi explained this week that once the SANDF returned to patrolling the borders in 2009 after the task was taken from them and handed to the South African Police Service in 2003, it was only the responsibility that was transferred, but not the budget.
“We have to cover more than 4 000km of land borders, meaning we need to deploy more people.
“When the defence force was taken over by SA Police Service [Saps], the budget of the border operations was given to Saps. But when they gave us back the task of working the borders, it didn’t come with the money.
“We were not able to keep up with patrolling the borders as before,” said Mgobozi.
“We have 15 companies deployed. Parliament had said we should deploy 22 companies but it is difficult because of lack of budget.”