Portfolio committee confident BMA will make April operationalisation deadline

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With just over three weeks before month-end and the 1 April date set for the latest addition to South Africa’s security architecture – the Border Management Authority (BMA) – to be fully operational, the parliamentary portfolio committee tasked with overseeing emigration and immigration is “confident” Mike Masiapato’s organisation will make the grade.

Following its meeting earlier this week the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (PCHA) in a statement said “all processes necessary for operationalisation” are in place. This echoes what Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi told an Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) parliamentarian earlier in March. Liezel van der Merwe was seeking an update on, among others, the functions of BMA border guards. He informed her the fledgling authority will fully take over functions implementing an integrated model come 1 April.

A Parliamentary Communication Services statement has it following an “engagement” with BMA management and Motsoaledi “every process is in place to ensure effective operationalisation”. As with many other government departments, authorities and agencies, a lack of funding could impact operations. To this end the PCHA wants “appropriate funding for technological interventions” to provide information technology (IT) platforms.

Labour, in the form of border guards and other BMA personnel, is seen as a potential problem area. This, Masiapato’s organisation has in common with other government security entities including the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and SA Police Service (SAPS). Estimates of National Expenditure (ENE) have, on more than one occasion, pointed to the defence of South Africa as being “labour intensive”.

With the BMA, the PCHA notes labour is “a critical component” and appreciates BMA management’s interaction in this regard to “ensure effectiveness of the entity”. The committee urged senior BMA management to finish processes including investigating “salary disparities and staff placements in the BMA permanent structure”.

The BMA funding shortfall rated mention in Finance Minister Enoch Godongwana’s February budget with a R6.8 million salary shortfall and R6.9 million less than asked for to cover goods and services. The BMA budget allocation, primarily sourced from the DHA and the departments of Health; Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development as well as Forestry, Fisheries and Environment, amounted to R1.2 billion set to increase to R1.4 billion in 2024/25 and R1.43 billion for the next annual financial cycle.

Initial budget requests were R2.6 billion in 2023/24, R3.5 billion in 2024/25, and R4.3 billion in 2025/6: this is a R6 billion shortfall over three years.