With the deadline for public comment and input on the Border Management Agency (BMA) draft bill fast approaching one has to hope the Department of Defence will be upfront about what, in many instances, appears to be vague and poorly considered legislation.
Establishment of a border guard is one of the provisions in a draft which seems to concentrate on recognised ports of entry such as border posts, harbours and airports but ignores the thousands of kilometres where there is no control apart from patrolling soldiers.
The land border where there are no entry points enjoys only passing mention and it appears the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) will continue its Cabinet assigned border protection tasking, even though the draft sees the border guard, dare it be said, as a new security organisation falling under the “command” of a commissioner, the envisaged supremo of the BMA.
Soldiers have contributed by far the majority of effort to national border protection, assisted by their air force and navy colleagues, since this important aspect of national sovereignty was handed back to it after Cabinet accepted the police were not up for the task and gave the job back to the soldiers.
Will the border guard be recruited from the ranks of the SA Army or will its members come from a general recruiting drive and have to be trained and at what cost?
These are questions that must be asked and answered while the bill is still in its draft stage. Similarly all confusion has to be cleared up so that South Africa gets legislation that works to properly plug a massive hole adversely affecting the national economy at levels including loss of tax revenue, cost of keeping and deporting undocumented individuals and increased levels of crime.
Defence along with Home Affairs are the lead government departments in the BMA, but it appears the draft bill has not had the pleasure of much input from Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s senior command.
It has to be rectified and speedily or the BMA will find itself as just another bureaucratic government agency pushing paper and clicking on computers at points of entry leaving the already financially stretched SANDF to do the hard work of border protection