South African border management set to enter another phase this year

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South Africa’s border control at recognised ports of entry is set to be beefed up considerably when the Border Management Agency (BMA) comes into being, probably still this year.

The newest addition to government’s growing list of agencies will assume full control of ports of entry and borderline functions and will also, once operational, take over operational responsibility for all ports of entry into South Africa. This includes land border posts such as Beit Bridge and Komatipoort, ports such as Cape Town and Durban and airports such as King Shaka International in Durban and OR Tambo International in Ekurhuleni.

In January Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security cluster said the BMA should become a reality this year. It will be an agency of the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) with input from, among others, the SA National Defence Force, SA Revenue Service in the form of customs and excise, the Department of State Security and the SA Police Service. Home Affairs spokesman Mayihlome Tshwete said this week 34 organisations and individuals had submitted comment on the proposed BMA bill before it was taken to Cabinet.

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“Submissions and comments were considered and changes were effected to cater for them before DHA requested Cabinet to approve introduction of the draft bill to Parliament,” he said adding the bill was sent to National Assembly Speaker, Baleta Mbete, and Thandi Modise, National Council of Provinces chair in October last year. He could not give a date when it would be tabled in the National Assembly.

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State Security Minister David Mahlobo is reported as saying earlier this year the BMA would be a tool used to curb illegal immigration. The Port of Cape Town is one of the BMA pilot projects in which his department was involved. Another pilot project is Operation Pyramid launched in the Kruger National Park last year.

Both it and the Port of Cape Town pilots are aimed at improving the country’s overall border management approach via law enforcement, infrastructure improvement, border community development and intelligence driven operations. Mahlobo is on record as having said that “effective control and management of South Africa’s border security is critical”.

The draft BMA bill appears to concentrate on regulated ports of entry such as Beit Bridge and Cape Town, among others, but largely ignores the thousands of kilometres of land border where soldiers are the only deterrent to prevent illegal immigration as well as stock and vehicle theft and illegal importing of cigarettes, liquor and clothing.

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At the end of this month, the SANDF is due to add another two companies to its Operation Corona tasking as per a Ministerial instruction that will see the number of border protection companies deployed rise to 15. Indications are the extra manpower will be put to use on the South Africa/Lesotho border in Eastern Cape and on the South Africa/Mozambique border with KwaZulu-Natal.

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