Sipho Mabena
Premium Journalist
2 minute read
18 Jun 2019
9:35 pm

UPDATE: SANDF launches probe to fill in ‘gaps’ around border spat

Sipho Mabena

Brigadier-General Mafi Mgobozi would not be drawn to discussing the details of the gaps, saying the information could not be disclosed.

An SANDF soldier is seen at an observation area at a base camp near the Mozambican border, 15 November 2018, Mpumalanga. Picture: Jacques Nelles

The probe into a gunfire skirmish between Mozambican police and SA National Defence Force (SANDF) members have pointed to worrying “gaps” in information, prompting the instant dispatch of a high-level team to Mozambique.

The SANDF said its soldiers were conducting routine border patrols when the shooting, which left two Mozambique border police dead, occurred along the border of the two countries in the northern part of KwaZulu-Natal on Sunday.

Spokesperson Brig-Gen Mafi Mgobozi told The Citizen the board of inquiry instituted to probe the incident would report on its preliminary findings when the gaps were identified.

Mgobozi would not be drawn to discussing the details of the gaps, saying the information could not be disclosed.

“The team returned to report what was happening. While reporting, gaps were seen and we decided to send a high-level delegation to Mozambique … That is all we can say it this stage,” he said.

Defence experts pointed to a number of scenarios which could have sparked the scuffle, including smuggling of illicit and stolen goods, illegal border crossings and human trafficking made possible by rampant corruption on both sides.

According to defence news portal DefenceWeb, this is the not the first time there has been a shooting between SA soldiers and their border protection colleagues on Mozambique’s border.

The news portal says the first incident happened about seven years ago when SA soldiers, following up a suspicious sighting, got stranded on an island, but that no one was injured.

The SANDF has denied any knowledge of similar incidents in the past.

Military analyst Helmoed-Romer Heitman said plausible scenarios of what could have happened were that either of the two forces were caught on the wrong side of the law, or it was a case of being at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Though there had been reports of Mozambique police taking bribes to allow Mozambican nationals to cross over to SA, the SANDF were no less prone to bribery, he claimed.

“It could be that either of the two sides was rogue, because SANDF is not unsusceptible to bribes and if Mozambican police were paid well, they would not be vulnerable to bribes. It could also have been that because they patrol the same area, there was no coordination and they blundered into each other in the bushes,” Heitman said.

Another possible scenario was that the SANDF had set a trap or an ambush for criminal elements and the Mozambican border police walked in.

“To the bottom of it, send a senior officer to ask what happened because it probably happened at corporal level. Sitting around a table over coffee will not bring answers,” he said.

The soldiers involved are said to be from the 10 Anti-Aircraft Regiment, based in Kimberley.

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