That the Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill has been a long time in coming was this week acknowledged by the Minister of Home Affairs and Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs.
Both “welcomed” the passing of the bill by the National Assembly with Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi saying the BMA bill was “long overdue”.
“The BMA will enable the country to manage its borders in a manner that facilitates trade and plugs holes in our porous borders. These porous borders lead to, among others, illegal crossing of people, illicit goods, drugs, trafficking of people, particularly of women and children, and stolen vehicles,” he said in a statement.
Advocate Bongani Bongo, chair of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee, said establishment of the BMA will “remedy the current fragmented border management model”.
The BMA Bill now goes to President Cyril Ramaphosa for signature and inclusion on the Statute Book.
Its area of jurisdiction is the 57 official ports of entry into South Africa, covering air, land and sea. That leaves more than five thousand kilometres of land border not overseen by the still to be formed management authority under the jurisdiction of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). The border protection tasking comes from Cabinet and is exercised under the banner of Operation Corona.
Fifteen companies from mostly infantry units patrol land borders with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe on foot and in soft-skin vehicles assisted by mounted and canine specialists in certain areas keeping undocumented migrants at bay as well as intercepting and confiscating goods meant for illegal sale.
Ahead of welcoming progress of the BMA bill through the National Assembly, a point it has taken close to five years to reach, Motsoaledi indicated the BMA would be implemented in phases with Beit Bridge a priority to become the country’s first one stop border post (OSBP). He did not set out any implementation timeframe.
“Beit Bridge is one of six large land ports of entry identified for infrastructure development. These land ports of entry have high traveller and trade volumes. It is important to develop them to reflect our commitment to easing movement of people and goods.
“The ports will be developed in partnership with the private sector through public/private partnerships and with neighbouring countries. The partnerships with neighbouring countries will centre on creating OSBPs.”