The current status of the Border Management Authority (BMA) bill – passed by the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) but still to be approved in a Council plenary – is an example of the time-consuming bureaucratic process affecting at least some legislation supposed to make South Africa, in this instance, better protected.
The bill, it its original form calling for the creation of a Border Management Agency, goes back to 2013. Earlier this year Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, delivering his first budget speech in the portfolio, told the National Assembly the bill was “stuck” in the NCOP.
It has progressed and Democratic Alliance (DA) NCOP member George Michalakis told defenceWeb the bill passed last week with an amendment. The next step toward it reaching the Statute Book is an NCOP plenary where members vote individually and not per province. Once that hurdle is cleared it’s back to the National Assembly and the relevant portfolio committee. The committee will “consider the NCOP amendment but is not bound by it. If rejected the bill will pass in the same form it previously reached the NCOP,” he said.
Indications are the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs will have the BMA on the agenda for a late January meeting.
Concern has been raised that the BMA, when it becomes operational, will be enforced only at the 57 official ports of entry to South Africa, leaving thousands of kilometres of land border to be patrolled by 15 companies from mostly SA National Defence Force (SANDF) infantry units (full-time and Reserve Force) supplemented by others. In this regards 1 Tank Regiment has previously been deployed to the Operation Corona border protection tasking.
A report summary of a Home Affairs portfolio committee meeting earlier this year by the Parliamentary Monitoring Group (PMG) indicates the SANDF distinguishes between border protection (line function of SANDF) and border control (line function of Home Affairs, SARS and SAPS).
“It supported the (BMA) Bill which respected the SANDF mandate. However, the SANDF does not have dedicated capabilities and equipment for border safeguarding operations.
“The BMA will conduct border law enforcement functions along the land and maritime borders. The SANDF will conduct both border protection and border law enforcement functions along the air border.
“The SANDF is under no constitutional obligation to ‘effect national border control’ as assigned in the Defence Act of 2002 which had not been assigned through the Constitution. Sometime after 1994, border control had been assigned to the South African Police Services (SAPS) and SANDF had not been involved at all.
“Borderline control did not mean SANDF soldiers would be marching on borderlines everyday though SANDF would be permanently around there,” according to PMG.