Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi will this week “unveil the first cohort” of border guards appointed as part of the newest addition to the South African government’s security apparatus – the Border Management Authority (BMA).
Two hundred newly minted border guards, selected and trained with a focus on fitness and “physical assessment” according to a Department of Home Affairs (DHA) statement will be deployed as part of a “pass out parade” at the Beitbridge port of entry in Limpopo on Thursday 14 July.
The BMA – “South Africa’s new, single authority for border management with a single command and control” – will be “fully established” next April. That’s when five function “streams” currently the responsibility of four government departments and the SA Police Service (SAPS) “integrate” in the new authority, which was originally conceived as an agency. The departments involved are DHA; Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment; Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development; and Health.
As far as the involvement of the national defence force in operations and taskings of the BMA is concerned, the statement has it the first batch of border guards will be “statically deployed at five identified vulnerable segments of the borderline working with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF)”. This deployment, the statement adds, takes place “while the broader integration process is underway”.
“The BMA will tighten border management by implementing an integrated and co-ordinated approach in the border management environment. This is an improvement on the previous multi-agency approach comprising multiple authorities with different mandates.
“When fully established, the BMA will play a pivotal role in tackling border security challenges impacting on the country and its neighbours. These include un-co-ordinated traveller processing, cross-border criminality, illegal crossings and undue delays in the facilitation of movement of goods and services. The BMA model will pave the way for the creation of smart border posts and systems and advance trade facilitation in the region,” is how DHA sums up the BMA’s workload.
It also sees Thursday’s “deployment ceremony” as an opportunity to update progress and the next steps in the “phased establishment” of the BMA and how border guards “will be deployed to “begin to tighten border management in identified ports of entry and in vulnerable segments along the borderline (sic)”.
While much is made of the new agency, one parliamentarian remains unconvinced about its cost and whether it will make any difference in plugging the porous South African land border.
Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for Motsoaledi’s portfolio Adrian Roos told defenceWeb he has more questions for the Home Affairs head honcho. With Parliament currently in recess he will only be able to pose questions when Parliament sits again in August.
“I definitely have more questions including why Minister Motsoaledi still has not opened smaller border posts despite all COVID-19 regulations being lifted. Before COVID-19 regulations were lifted he claimed border posts were closed as port health officials were not available to administer COVID-19 tests”.
“The major question is if port health can prevent a border post being open then who is really in charge? And where are the border officials supposed to be working at these border posts?”