In 2013 Cabinet agreed to establish a Border Management Agency (BMA). The ensuring years have seen a name change to Border Management Authority but the authorising legislation is “stuck” in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) according to Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
Delivering his first Home Affairs budget vote in Parliament since being moved from the health portfolio by President Cyril Ramaphosa, Motsoaledi said debate has long been raging about South Africa’s porous borders and fragmented border management approach.
“The problem is not that people must not come to South Africa, but whoever enters the country must be properly documented. Porous borders make documentation extremely difficult. The problem of porous borders does not only lead to lack of documentation of people.
“There are also problems trafficking women and children across these porous borders. There is also the problem of hard drugs being easily smuggled across our borders,” he said adding another problem was that of stolen goods, stolen cars, counterfeit goods and contraband “passing smoothly across our borders”.
The national effort to manage border control via the BMA centres around removing the seven different command structures with different laws, work ethics and different governance regimes currently in place.
Under the BMA there will be a single governance system in use at South Africa’s official ports of entry. According to Motsoaledi, there are seven government departments and agencies involved in border control where no less than 57 different laws are in effect. The departments are Home Affairs; SA Police Service (SAPS); SA National Defence Force (SANDF); Agriculture, Land and Rural Development; Health, Environment and SA Revenue Service’s (SARS) National Treasury.
He sees the most immediate task being to “unstick” the Bill from the NCOP and then a start will be made with BMA pilot projects. These will focus on two land ports – Oshoek between eSwatini and South Africa and Lebombo between Mozambique and South Africa – as well as OR Tambo International Airport in Ekurhuleni and the Cape Town sea port. He did not give any timeframe for the BMA Bill to be approved by the NCOP.
To improve efficiency in facilitating movement of both people and goods, Motsoaledi’s department plans to go the one-stop border post route. This will initially see the six land border posts at Beit Bridge, Ficksburg, Kopfontein, Lebombo, Oshoek and Maseru “revamped and redeveloped in public/private partnership”.
He sees this enhancing collaboration between government and the private sector on infrastructure projects.
In total, South Africa has 72 ports of entry 53 of them land, 11 airports and eight sea ports. Seventeen of the land ports are with Botswana, 14 with Lesotho, 11 with eSwatini, eight with Namibia, two with Mozambique and one with Zimbabwe.
Motsoaledi is the seventh minister to hold the home affairs portfolio since the BMA was first flighted as a government agency. Others are current international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor (2012 to 2014); Malusi Gigaba in two stints the first from 2024 to 2017 and the second for 10 months in 2018; Hlengiwe Mkhize (seven months in 2017); Ayanda Dlodlo (October 2017 to February 2018), Siyabonga Cwele (November 2018 to May 2019).