File picture: Elmond Jiyane/DoC
File picture: Elmond Jiyane/DoC

SANDF should use technology to fight cross-border vehicle theft

By Mayibongwe Maqhina Time of article published Nov 27, 2021

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Cape Town - Parliament has heard that there was a need for the SANDF and other law enforcement agencies to use appropriate technology to fight the cross-border smuggling of stolen vehicles.

This was the word from vehicle tracking companies when they briefed the joint standing committee on defence on challenges with vehicle smuggling along South African borders.

Co-chairperson Cyril Xaba said they called the meeting for the companies to talk about their own experience about vehicles smuggled into the neighbouring countries.

Apparently there is an area that runs parallel to the international borderline that extends 10 km inland.

The towns, villages and populated areas in the close vicinity of the borderline are affected by the illegal cross-border movements.

This area is patrolled by the SANDF, who are deployed on a six-month rotational basis.

“If you drive and happen to be in that zone, then you are likely to have your car taken away. In some areas, they even visit people at homes to take the car keys at gunpoint and drive the vehicles away,” Xaba said.

He said the culprits were so brazen that they killed people who stood in their way.

“I am interested to know whether the jersey barriers are effective and whether they can be extended to other parts,” Xaba said, referring to the erection of concrete jersey barriers on parts of the borderline.

Tracker chief operating officer Duma Ngcobo said the topography made it difficult to safeguard the border line.

“There is a role to play by physical structures as part of impediments. We believe there are other capabilities which can complement them,” he said.

Ngcobo, however, said the movement of stolen vehicles did not start and end at the border line, as the armed syndicates would transport vehicles from places like Gauteng and even hide them in thick bushes.

“Because they understand the nature of the land and they go in the pitch of darkness, In the absence of appropriate technology this (thwarting their efforts) becomes somewhat limited,” he told the MPs.

Ngcobo also said there should be focused partnerships, force structures tailored to combat cross-border crime through joint tactics as well as a cooperative approach and coordination between SANDF, SAPS, vehicle tracking companies and other interested parties.

He also said there should be focused training, mentoring and coaching of the SANDF in tactical crime prevention techniques and intelligence of vehicle movement, among others.

Netstar operations executive Charles Morgan said they found the concrete jersey barriers effective, but would need maintenance and support.

“There are other mechanisms to circumvent by building bridges and forcing criminals to seek alternatives or slow down,” he said.

Morgan also said there were opportunities to use technology to enhance border safeguarding such as cameras on the known routes and a dedicated secure radio channel to cover the area.

The SANDF needed modern GPS equipment and drones with GPS, cameras and night capability, among other things, he said.

“Certainly, there are opportunities to look at drones and unmanned aircraft. If we set aerial operations in core areas we would be able to pick up quickly where there is movement, either by day or night,” he said.

SANDF chief of joint operations Lieutenant-General Siphiwe Sangweni said they appreciated the work done by the tracking companies in the fight against vehicle theft and hijacking.

“We want to appreciate them in providing solutions to the scourge of illegal cross-border crimes,” he said, adding that they regarded them as force multipliers.

“What they present as other possible technology, we are to consider as we start going to that environment of technology as we use low-technology and physical structures,” Sangweni said.

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Political Bureau

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