BMA border guards apprehend men smuggling state property into Mozambique

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Border guards from the newly established Border Management Authority (BMA) have arrested two people and charged them with the possession of stolen goods, including street lights, that they were attempting to take into Mozambique.

The Border Management Authority said the pair was arrested by border guards at the Kosi Bay port of entry when they intercepted state property which was en route to Mozambique on Saturday, 11 November. The state property included 52 street lights worth R1.9 million belonging to the eThekwini Metropolitan Municipality.

The BMA on Monday said the two men were in a grey Isuzu bakkie which was driven by a Mozambican national when they were searched at the port of entry bordering South Africa and Mozambique.

“The team immediately activated the Hawks and Durban metro police. Two Mozambicans were arrested and charged with the possession of stolen goods, including damaging of essential infrastructure,” the BMA said.

In addition, the BMA said the vehicle they were travelling in as well as the property were seized and handed over to the Manguzi South African Police Service (SAPS).

“A case was opened and handed over to the Hawks for further investigation.”

Directorate for priority crime investigation (Hawks) spokesperson Lieutenant Colonel Simphiwe Mhlongo said on Saturday Hawks members from Richards Bay Serious Organised Crime Investigation working together with the Kosi Bay Border Management Authority were conducting a joint operation at the Kosi Bay Port of Entry when they stopped a vehicle, coming from South Africa to Mozambique, that was pulling a trailer.

“A search was conducted and 52 LED street lights engraved as property of eThekwini Municipality were found. Suspects could not give reasonable explanation on how they obtained the municipality property,” he said.

The eThekwini Municipality said it is concerned that cross-border crime syndicates are now targeting the municipality, which could have a detrimental impact on service delivery.

BMA Commissioner, Dr Michael Masiapato, commended the remarkable work of the border guards in preventing illegal activities and securing the state assets.

“The BMA border guards serve as the first line of defence working around the clock to enforce immigration laws thereby maintaining the integrity of our nation. Their vigilance in this incident and dedication contribute significantly to maintaining law and order. Their operation in intercepting municipal assets is truly commendable,” said Masiapato.

In July last year Masiapato’s BMA deployed its first cohort of 221 border guards at what was called “vulnerable segments of the borderline, including informal community crossing points”.

The BMA is looking to add 400 more border guards, of which 50 will be coast guards. Their recruitment, government news agency SAnews reported, will “ensure the entity is effective and efficient at all border posts”.

South African President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the BMA in the Limpopo border town of Musina, close to the Beitbridge port of entry, on 5 October.

According to Masiapato, the BMA “aims to ensure that South African borders are less porous and more efficient in facilitation of trade as well as ensuring the legitimate movement of goods and people.”

South Africa has 72 ports of entry, 53 of which are land-based, 10 are aviation or international airports and nine maritime. “Over and above managing the 72 ports of entry, we are managing the vulnerable segments of our border lines and community crossing points,” he is reported as saying.

Masiapato mentioned that to assist with technological support on border management operations, the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, recently announced the issuing of a Request for Proposals (RFP) to the market for the redesigning and redevelopment of South Africa’s top six busiest ports of entry. The “re-developed ports of entry will result in the efficient cross-border management of movement of people, goods and services, improved revenue collection and preventing harmful imports and exports,” he stated.

The six earmarked ports of entry are Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Lebombo (Mozambique), Maseru Bridge (Lesotho), Ficksburg (Lesotho), Kopfontein (Botswana), and Oshoek (Eswatini). These ports were earmarked in order to address the congestion, based on being the largest and busiest by traffic volume. The re-designing project is expected to create an estimated 38 000 jobs in areas around the six designated ports of entry.

The BMA was formally established as a Schedule 3(A) public entity on 1 April 2023, allowing Ramaphosa to launch it as Commander-in-Chief of the SANDF in October. Masiapato said the previous multi-departmental approach in place for the past 29 years was a “major challenge, where a number of Departments were operating at the borders. You had the Department of Home Affairs doing immigration; the Department of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment doing biosecurity functions, the Department of Agriculture doing agriculture functions and also the Department of Health responsible for port health functions. In the previous years we had independent managers of those four departments operating at the ports and reporting back to their various departments. This was over and above the operations of the South African Revenue Services (SARS) facilitating port customs, the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) responsible for border policing functions.”

The new model integrates the port functions of the four departments. In order to empower the BMA to be effective, it was then created as a law enforcement authority, which became the third armed service in South Africa after SANDF and SAPS. The SANDF will continue to have 15 companies of soldiers deployed along the borderlines under Operation Corona.