NOT content with illegally entering South Africa, smugglers, undocumented persons and vehicle thieves have apparently added bribery to their list of criminal offences according to an insert on a weekend TV actuality programme.
An M-Net Carte Blanche investigation brought to light the involvement of soldiers, on duty at the Beitbridge port of entry, in a bribery racket giving an illegal green light to smugglers to move their goods, including vehicles and illegal immigrants, without let or hindrance.
The television programme’s investigation was aired days after eight arrests in connection with violations of immigration laws and regulations at the Lebombo port of entry were made public by Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.
These transgressions follow the mid-year arrest of seven soldiers on corruption charges. They were on the South Africa/Zimbabwe border as per the national border protection tasking Operation Corona and allegedly assisted a vehicle theft syndicate to smuggle stolen vehicles out of the country.
The third reported incident of border criminality in the space of five months, two apparently involving SA National Defence Force (SANDF) personnel, elicited strong reaction from Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais.
He wants Minister Thandi Modise to launch “an immediate, independent investigation” into the reported bribes soldiers posted at South Africa’s sole port of entry with Zimbabwe – either demanded or received in return for allowing illegal access.
Marais, while bemoaning the lack of discipline and moral fibre of soldiers seemingly taking bribes, maintains it points to a larger problem of executive oversight shortcomings.
“It is indicative of the general rot seeping into and through the Department of Defence (DoD) and SANDF,” he said adding incidents of this type “fuelled public mistrust in the national defence force and soldiers – its most visible component”.
“It is imperative Minister Modise launches an independent investigation that guarantees implicated officers and soldiers are held accountable for unlawful behaviour as well as abandoning and disobeying their constitutional roles, obligations and mandate. The investigation should seek solutions to ensure illegal activity of this type is not repeated.”
He will take the defence minister to task during this week’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) meeting.
The SANDF in a statement said it “strongly condemns criminal activities and acts of corruption where our military forces is executing its constitutionally mandated duties. Members of the SANDF are expected to conduct themselves with the necessary decorum and discipline at all times.
“The Chief of the SANDF, General Rudzani Maphwanya and members of the Military Command Council reiterate and remind all members of the SANDF that no act of ill-discipline or criminality will be tolerated or go unpunished in the military regardless of rank or position.”