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Surveillance drones to be deployed along SA, Zimbabwe border

Samuel Mungadze
By Samuel Mungadze, Africa editor
Johannesburg, 07 Oct 2020

The South African government plans to deploy surveillance drones along parts of the Beitbridge border post, to address security challenges posed by border-jumpers and smugglers.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula made the announcement yesterday in Parliament, when addressing the Standing Committee on Public Accounts on issues regarding security at the northern border.

SA and Zimbabwe share a 255km border and it has been the subject of security concerns due to the influx of undocumented immigrants entering the country through the Beitbridge borderline.

The border is also the SADC region’s busiest inland port of entry that connects the continent’s north and south trade corridors.

Government has been trying to strengthen security at the border, especially with the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the R37 million border fence project being launched.

However, the project was tarnished when it emerged that the fencing ended up costing government R1 million per kilometre and the Special Investigations Unit has since launched a probe into the matter.

Yesterday, the minister told parliamentarians that one of the decisions to safeguard the border is to begin to use drones and rely more on technology.

“Yes, we have our warm bodies on the borderline, but also rely on sensors. The fence has not helped, the movement of people continues and people have vandalised the fence, people have stolen the fence,” Mapisa-Nqakula said.

Increasingly, drones are being used in other parts of the country to help with security issues, including fighting rhino poaching in SA.

In Cape Town, due to the spate of violent attacks on tourists on Table Mountain, the Department of Tourism last year announced plans to deploy drones as well as install cameras to ensure the safety of those visiting the tourist site.

These drones, according to tourism minister Mmamoloko Kubayi-Ngubane, are similar to those used in anti-rhino-poaching efforts at South African National Parks sites.

According to a recent DefenceWeb report, representatives from the South African Police Service and Johannesburg Metro Police Department stated unmanned aerial vehicles will be used in the future for law enforcement, public safety and disaster management.

This week, national police commissioner general Khehla Sitole revealed helicopters and drones are among the resources to be used by “command centres” in the fight against crime in rural areas.