This is the “unending” challenge facing police and soldiers patrolling the area to prevent common cross-border crimes such as livestock theft, dagga-smuggling and illegal immigration.
For illegal immigrants and stock thieves who carefully evade the points where there are patrols, a journey to either country is simply a walk over the border day or night.
Qacha’s Nek is at the apex of the high altitude and vast Drakensberg mountain range, exactly 35km outside Maluti near “Matat” or Matatiele.
This is where criminals literally get away with murder as police officers often stumble on bodies rotting at the foot of the mountains.
“We suspect that conflicts over grazing land between citizens of both countries are behind the deaths. Other bodies are suspected to be those of stock thieves who were assaulted after being caught by owners,” said Matatiele police spokesman Lieutenant Humphrey Motloung.
Motloung said dagga dealers preferred the drug from Lesotho as they believed it has “high quality”.
Matatiele has a tiny mixed population of Sesotho and IsiXhosa speakers, as well as coloured and white Afrikaans-speaking people.
Chief Thanduxolo Magadla said livestock theft was rife.
“It’s no longer theft, they are just taking on a daily basis. It’s winter now and people oversleep, [but] thieves do not sleep,” said Magadla
For most of the year, the Drakensberg mountains are icy cold with severe rainfalls, snow and thunderstorms.
These are among the challenges cited by Maluti Mounted Unit police riders, Constables Mandisa Ndaule and Neziwe Radebe, who have been with the unit for three and five years respectively.
Radebe and Ndaule, have earned the praise of their colleagues at the provincial police headquarters because of their success and resilience in a male-dominated unit. They have undergone seven weeks of training.
“You not only have to be physically fit but mentally strong to survive. The best thing about the job is working independently, at your own pace,” said Radebe.
Apart from offering support services to surrounding police stations, the Maluti Mounted Unit’s tasks include searching for missing people along rivers and mountain ranges.
Ndaule said it was important to develop a close bond with one’s horse.
“There is body language, like when Nasdarowja [horse] is happy he will raise his ears, but when angry they will sleep. You have to love the job to succeed,” she said.
The Daily Dispatch spoke to several young would-be illegal immigrants from Lesotho waiting for dusk at a demarcation line where a fence once used to be….