defenceWeb‘s second annual Border Control conference has come and gone. It was by any measure a great success: attendance was fantastic, industry support was exceptional, the programme was impressive, the speakers said much that was worthwhile – and even new. Not often one attends a conference one can truthfully say that about!
It shows the difference a military mind makes, in this case our consultant, retired Colonel David Peddle, who was for many years intimately involved in the border environment. So it was good to hear the South African National Defence Force’s Chief Director Operations, Major General Barney Hlatswayo, speak on behalf of both the Joint Operations Division and the Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. Noteworthy in his address is that the SANDF now plans to deploy up to 22 companies along the border – up from roughly 14 announced in August last year. Furthermore, the focus, for the military will now be the border, rather than peacekeeping missions. Whether this is a deliberate change in focus or a consequence of, for example, the Democratic Republic of Congo ‘s desire for the United Nations peacekeeping force – that includes a reinforced South African battalion – there to leave, remains unclear. We may learn more at defenceWeb‘s third annual peacekeeping conference, scheduled for August.
It was also good to hear from the Department of Agriculture and farmers’ lobby AgriSA on border matters. But there are some regrets, including that we could not prevail on the Department of Home Affairs, the State Security Agency, the SA Revenue Service or the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee to speak – or attend – despite some three months of lobbying. We shall persevere! It was also disappointing that the police in the end declined to speak, but it was good to have at least three brigadiers in the audience. One of them, Brigadier Zuma, corrected a misperception that there was no police exit-military entrance strategy in place. This was news to people like Henri Boshoff and Dr Johan Burger of the Institute of Security Studies, and some good discussions took place on the subject.
If this year’s edition is any guide for the future, next year’s event should be an even greater learning opportunity.
In the meantime, we should have the presentations and the audio up elsewhere on this website shortly for those who could not attend.