BMA guards and police enforce law at ports of entry

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A Parliamentary question posed by an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) public representative shed some light on the functions of border guards, newcomers to the overall South African security architecture.

Answering Liezel van der Merwe, Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi used the Beitbridge port of entry as a specific example. A written response has it that 40 of 200 border guards appointed by the Border Management Authority (BMA) mid-last year were deployed at the busy post controlling access of vehicles, including goods trucks, and pedestrians moving between South Africa and Zimbabwe.

According to the Minister the 40 were – and presumably still are – responsible for “implementation of border law enforcement in conjunction” with police. The enlistment of police to assist is explained as being due to the border guards “not yet fully capacitated for full takeover of the functions” the 22 February ministerial response has it. It continues “currently functions are implemented through a multi-agency approach co-ordinated by the BMA through a multi-party agreement”. This will cease on 1 April when the fledgling BMA “fully takes over functions” by implementing “an integrated model”.

Motsoaledi further responded, writing: “The port operational functioning has a process flow managed through various cascading border structures overseen on quarterly basis by legislated committees, the Border Technical Committee (BTC) and the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee (IMCC). The BTC and IMCC were designed to deal with challenges that cannot be solved by the BMA operational structures”. Both, he tells Van der Merwe, met three times last year with “final fourth quarter meetings respectively on 15 and 24 March 2023”.

The March meetings are due to receive “feedback review and reflections on operations conducted in the border environment” over the December/January year-end festive season.

In response to possible allegations of illegal immigration, illicit transport of goods as well as insider threats and other corrupt activities, Motsoaledi informed the IFP public representative an integration process included “extensive vetting processes”.

Also in February, BMA chief executive Mike Masiapato briefed Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (PCHA) on the budget allocated the Authority by Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana.

His presentation showed the BMA requesting R2.6 billion for its major expenses in 2023/24, listed as salaries (R1.7 billion) and goods/services (R920 million). National Treasury did not meet the request and BMA has a salary shortfall of R6.8 million with goods/services allocated R6.9 million less.

He commented in the presentation “the budget is far from being commensurate with the mandate considering efficient border management needs more boots on the ground, even more, deployment of the 4th IR (Industrial Revolution) technologies for border risk targeting, analysis as well as border patrol”.

The BMA is planned to be fully established by April this year through the integration of five function streams provided by the departments of Home Affairs (DHA); Forestry, Fisheries and Environment (DFFE); Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD) as well as Health (DoH).

Masiapato told the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee for the 2023/24 financial year, the BMA budget allocation, primarily sourced from the DHA, DoH, DALRRD and DFFE, amounted to R1.2 billion and will increase to R1.4 billion in 2024/25, and R1.43 billion in 2025/26.

As the initial budget request was R2.6 billion in 2023/24, R3.5 billion in 2024/25, and R4.3 billion in 2025/6, this represents a shortfall of R6 billion over the next three years.