SA President launches country’s newest armed service in Musina

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The newest component of the South African government’s security sector – the Border Management Authority (BMA) – was launched in Musina yesterday (Thursday, 5 October) by President Cyril Ramaphosa well over a year after its first “cohort” of border guards was deployed.

Confirmation of the status conferred on Chief Executive Michael Masiapato’s organisation was provided by the South African President in his address at the Musina showgrounds launch function.

“The BMA is now the third armed service in South Africa after the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) and the SA Police Service (SAPS),” his prepared remarks read with an addition that leaves no doubt about the continued involvement of particularly the SA Army as the landward service in the wider border protection sector.

“While the border guard will be conducting border law enforcement functions, including access control, the SANDF remains responsible for border protection and safeguarding.”

Regular and Reserve Force SA Army units are the backbone of Operation Corona’s current 15 company-strong deployment along South Africa’s 4 860 plus kilometres of land borders with six countries.

Ramaphosa told the launch function the BMA is mandated to perform border management functions “within ports of entry as well as the law enforcement area” adding it was “established through an incremental approach”.

On why the establishment of the BMA, the South African President’s prepared remarks have it “since 1994 the country’s border management has been exercised by different government departments and state agencies, often implementing their respective mandates in isolation”.

A “lack of co-ordination and inadequate information sharing between various management and enforcement authorities rendered our borders vulnerable,” which Ramaphosa sees changing with the BMA providing “a sustainable solution to the structural challenges of border security, control and co-ordination”.

“It will be a new model of integration of functions, roles and responsibilities in the broader law enforcement environment.”

The BMA is expected to tackle the challenges of congestion, procedural delays, long transit times, lack of predictability and high logistics costs experienced at any number of ports of entry, including high volume ones such as Beitbridge (with Zimbabwe) and Lebombo (with Mozambique).