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Soutpansberg Military Area
SADF Soutpansberg Military Area emblem
SADF Soutpansberg Military Area emblem
Country Flag of South Africa (1928–1994).svg South Africa
Allegiance Flag of South Africa (1928–1994).svg South Africa
Branch Flag of South Africa.svg South Africa Army
Type Militarised Area
Part of Chief of the Army
Garrison/HQ Messina, Northern Province
Engagements South African Border War
Soutpansberg Military Area Command Bar Soutpansberg Military Area Command Bar

The Soutpansberg Military Area (SMA) Headquarters was situated in Messina in the Northern Province. The size of the area for which the SMA was responsible for was approximately 4 040 square kilometres.


This South African Military Area bordered on two international borders, those of Botswana and Zimbabwe. The length of borderline for which the Military Area was responsible was approximately 74 kilometres shared with Botswana and approximately 225 kilometres shared with Zimbabwe.

SADF Soutpansberg Military Area updated

SADF Soutpansberg Military Area, showing military security zones

Some parts of the affected area allowed commercial farmers to continue to operate, while others areas particularly to the east of Messina was depopulated and became a military exclusive zone called the Madimbo corridor.[1][2]


Along the borderline with Zimbabwe, starting at the Sand River just east of Messina up to the Alldays area, a Norex electrical fence marked the borderline. There was a gap of approximately 32 kilometres in the Norex fence at the Vhembe area. The Norex fence was manned by military personnel from the Military Area who were stationed at substations every ten kilometres along the border. One to two soldiers were deployed at each substation.

When interference occurred on the fence, which was set on alarm mode, it would register at the substation closest to the interference, at the Military Area headquarters, as well as at the offices of the contractor responsible for the maintenance of the electrical fence. The electrical fence was severely damaged during the 2000 floods and was under repair, placing an extra burden on funds and personnel to maintain the same level of readiness.[3] The rest of the borderline east of the Sand River follows the Limpopo River, and consists mainly of farming lands. In this area, sisal plants formed a barrier in the past, but these were cleared to make way for an extension of the Norex electrical fence. However, it was never erected because no funds were available to do so. The sisal barrier was also very badly damaged by elephants and monkeys eating the plants. It is debatable whether the sisal ‘fence’ was ever really effective. Farmers along this stretch of the border assisted the military and the police in reporting suspected crossings and illegal immigrants in their areas.[4]

Units in the Military AreaEdit

Conventional ForcesEdit

Elements of 32 Battalion was used in the Military Area after they arrived from South West Africa. A Northern Sotho specific Infantry, 116 Battalion was based in Messina.

Soutpansberg Military Area Flash with Far North Command Bar

Soutpansberg Military Area Flash with Far North Command Bar

SANDF 15 SAI in the Soutpansberg Military Area

SANDF 15 SAI in the Soutpansberg Military Area

SADF 32 Battalion SSI

SADF 32 Battalion

SADF 116 Battalion badge

SADF 116 Battalion

SADF 7 SAI emblem 2

SADF 7 SAI Battalion

SADF Recce badge

SADF Recces

Citizen Commando UnitsEdit

Various commando units such as Limpopo Commando and the Soutpansberg Commando were also based in the Military Area, just outside Messina and was responsible for border protection. Limpopo Commando was responsible for the stretch from Pontdrift East up to the nature reserve west of Messina.

SADF Soutpansberg Commando

SADF Soutpansberg Commando

SADF Limpopo Commando badge

SADF Limpopo Commando

SADF Sandriver Commando

SADF Sandriver Commando


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