According to Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, a lesson learnt at South African ports of entry during the December/January holiday period was that “illegal migration remains a serious challenge”.
He told a Cape Town briefing a joint approach was needed to end undocumented migrants coming into South Africa via any of the 57 official ports of entry or in their immediate vicinity. He did not give an indication of how many people were apprehended for this offence.
The joint approach at official ports of entry such as Beit Bridge, Lebombo, OR Tambo International Airport and others sees collaboration and integrated operations with government departments and agencies. Included are the customs and excise department of the SA Revenue Service (SARS), the SA Police Service (SAPS), the national Department of Health and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF).
The military tasking at ports of entry is dwarfed by that undertaken on a 24/7/365 basis along more than five thousand kilometres of land border with six countries. Fifteen companies from mostly infantry units patrol 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.
Until November last year, regular updates on confiscations, seizures (including stolen vehicles and weapons) as well as undocumented migrants handed to Home Affairs and police for further processing was supplied by the SANDF’s Joint Operations Division. No information for December or January has been released.
On progress with establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA) Motsoaledi said: “What is now left is for the National Assembly to consider the amendments made and process the Bill further”.
The bill has been on the wider Parliamentary drawing board for at least six years and part of deliberations saw its name changed from an “agency” to an “authority”.
The Minister, without giving any timeframe, said the BMA would be implemented in phases with Beit Bridge a priority to become the country’s first one stop border post (OSBP).
“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 these ports of entry 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.”
Home Affairs is, according to Motsoaledi, looking at incremental establishment and rollout of the BMA to designated ports of entry and key segments of the land border. Currently identified ports of entry, apart from Beit Bridge, are Oshoek, Lebombo, OR Tambo International Airport and the Port of Cape Town.