BMA guard personnel numbers set to increase

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The Border Management Authority (BMA) is expanding its border guard numbers, adding 400 to the 200 put into service 15 months ago.

BMA Chief Executive and Commissioner Michael Masiapato is quoted by South African government news agency SANews as saying “an additional 400 border guards, including 50 coast guards, are being recruited” to “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.

The government news agency has Masiapato saying 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.

Looking back at the initial border guard deployment in July 2022, Masiapato said the first 221 officers were deployed as BMA border guards at “vulnerable segments of the borderline, including informal community crossing points”.

On corruption and the need for integrity in the BMA, he is quoted as saying a section of the Act creating the Authority “requires all border management officials be fully vetted and regular lifestyle audits be conducted”.

“The BMA,” according to him, “is a vital link in our [South Africa’s] efforts to harness the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area (AfCFTA). Despite serious challenges faced before, the BMA will provide a sustainable solution to the structural challenges of border security, control and co-ordination.

“It is intended that this new approach will adapt and respond effectively to the challenges, threats and opportunities in the border environment while safeguarding South Africa’s borders and meeting the country’s national, regional and global development responsibilities and human imperatives.”

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.

As a Schedule 3(A) “entity” as defined by the Act establishing the Financial Intelligence Centre (FIC), the BMA is bound by regulations set out in the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA) even though it is a Department of Home Affairs (DHA) entity. It has to produce and table an annual report and financial statements to Parliament to account for its National Treasury allocated funding. The SA Civil Aviation Authority (SACAA), a Department of Transport (DoT) “entity”, is another example on the Schedule 3(A) listings which total 155 as per National Treasury.

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 earlier this month. 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.