The SA National Defence Force (SANDF) denies involvement in reported alleged “high level talks” to create a new government department with border control as its sole mandate.
The denial from the Department of Defence (DoD) head of communication, Siphiwe Dlamini, is in the form of a short three paragraph statement.
“The SANDF notes media reports asserting ‘the defence force is on (sic) high levels talks to establish a new government department to tackle border control’ as articulated in various media platforms.
“The SANDF reiterates its mandate is ‘to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and principles of international law regulating the use of force’ as derived from the South African Constitution. Therefore, safeguarding the borderline remains a primary function of the SANDF.
“Government is in the process of establishing the Border Management Agency (sic) (BMA), which will be responsible for the management and co-ordination of all border control measurements.”
The statement incorrectly names the still to become reality entity – its title was changed during one of many Parliamentary submissions to debate the proposed BMA Bill. It is now officially the Border Management Authority and has passed – over a six year period – through Parliament’s various stages including the National Assembly, the National Council of Provinces and the defence and home affairs portfolio committees. It is now reportedly ready to be signed into the Statute Book. This will be followed by a setting up process with as yet, no date set for the latest addition to government control to become operational. The BMA will be an agency of the Department of Home Affairs and will operate with input from other government departments and entities involved in aspects of border control. These include the SANDF, the SA Police Service, the customs and excise division of SA Revenue Services and the national Department of Health.
The BMA will operate and function at the 57 official ports of entry into South Africa leaving – as is currently the situation – the over 5 200 km of land border between them to SA Army soldiers to do the “territorial integrity” part of the Constitutionally set task.
The border protection tasking is executed by the Joint Operations Division of the SANDF as Operation Corona. There are currently – and will be for the foreseeable future – 15 mainly infantry companies doing the hard slog on foot and its modified 4X4 vehicles with assistance from mounted soldiers and dogs along parts of the border with Zimbabwe and Botswana.
A summary of a Home Affairs portfolio committee meeting last year had it that “border protection” is a national defence force function and “border control” is a Department of Home Affairs line function.