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“Border guards” will be part of the Border Management Authority – Minister

New Border Management Authority will have border guardsAddressing the National Assembly, Home Affairs Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize gave another indication the proposed Border Management Authority (BMA) will be active only at recognised ports of entry leaving by far the bulk of border protection to the military.

She hinted at, but gave no further details of, an apparently new position, that of “border guard”. She also told MPs there was concern about the nature of powers to be given to these border guards to conduct routine searches but did not indicate from where they would be drawn or whether they would be specially recruited.

“The BMA will play an important role in supporting the creation of an inclusive and growing economy at the frontline of our country’s borders by facilitating the legitimate movement of people and goods in line with our socio-economic objectives. We will focus on building the right set of skills for Border Guard officials and on establishing modern and secure infrastructure, information and communication technology platforms that meet the universal standards based on the rule of law,” she told MPs.

According to Mkhize, who inherited the BMA legislation from Malusi Gigaba, now Minister of Finance, two of the imperatives underpinning the BMA Bill are “a new policy paradigm of integrated border management” and a determination to facilitate “the legal and secure movement of people and goods across our borders”.

As far as challenges facing the still-to-be finalised government agency, she pointed out one being “government departments and state agencies operating in a fragmented and incoherent manner with conflicting policy positions, non-aligned implementation and varied interpretation of the border management regulatory regime”.

The consequences of inefficient and ineffective border manager at South Africa’s 72 ports of entry leads to travellers and traders having to put up with poor service and “creates a breeding ground for corruption”.

The SA National Defence Force (SANDF), mainly through deployments of SA Army and SA Army Reserve Force units, assisted by elements of the SA Air Force (SAAF) and the skills of the SA Army Specialised Infantry Capability (SASIC) unit, does the necessary patrolling of the country’s landward borders, stopping illegal immigrants and contraband. There are currently 15 companies deployed at any one time as part of Operation Corona, the border protection tasking that sees soldiers patrolling South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe.

Defence minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula visited SANDF and community members at Mbuzini on the border with Mozambique in on May 3 to find out what challenges they are facing. She was told that over the last two months, soldiers assisted by police had arrested 206 undocumented immigrants who illegally crossed the border from Mozambique and Swaziland and seized contraband goods, dagga and stolen vehicles worth R10 million.

Over the weekend Community safety, security and liaison MEC Pat Ngomane launched a border security programme that is aimed at eliminating cross border car theft. The launch, held at Komatipoort, included stakeholders the SAPS, SANDF, Nkomazi local municipality and Tracker.

In the 2016-17 financial year, about 142 stolen vehicles were recovered while trying to cross the border to Mozambique. Four stolen cars were recovered in the last week on the border between South Africa and Mozambique.