Twelve months before BMA makes “a difference” to border security


The man at the helm of the newest addition to South Africa’s security architecture – Border Management Authority (BMA) Chief Executive Michael Masiapato – is reported as saying it will take “about 12 months” before the country sees “a difference in border security”.

The comment was reported by Johannesburg daily The Citizen from Masiapato’s Thursday (28 September) address to the National Press Club in Pretoria. His address was five working days before the official BMA launch, set for Musina’s showgrounds on 5 October with President Cyril Ramaphosa set to attend.

Addressing the oldest press club in South Africa, Masiapato is reported by government news agency, SAnews as saying prior to the BMA South Africa used “a multi-agency approach” to border management. This saw seven government departments, agencies and entities involved. They were the departments of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development (DALRRD); Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment (DFFE); Health; Home Affairs; the SA National Defence Force (SANDF); the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the SA Revenue Service (SARS) of National Treasury.

This, according to him, made managing South Africa’s borders “a challenge” and was part of legislative frameworks that had to be “looked at” prior to the BMA’s establishment.

“For almost 15 years, there have been discussions to try and have the BMA established to deal with the challenges the country is faced with. There was a lot of corruption brought by the old system,” Masiapato is reported as saying.

According to the official government news outlet, Cabinet took the decision to establish the BMA (it was originally going to be an “agency” rather than an “authority”) in June 2013.The decision followed a National Intelligence Co-ordinating Committee (NICOC) 2012 feasibility study, which highlighted border management weaknesses.

“The authority will be responsible for execution of frontline border law enforcement functions related to, inter alia, port health, immigration control, access control, biosecurity, food safety and phyto-sanitary control, land border infrastructure development and maintenance and border information and risk management.

“It is intended that the new agency, the BMA, will adapt and respond effectively to the challenges, threats and opportunities that exist in the border environment whilst safeguarding South Africa’s borders and meeting the country’s national, regional and global developmental responsibilities and human rights imperatives,” SAnews wrote.

While the BMA is set for official launch early in October it deployed a first “cohort” of trained border guards in June last year. Reports have it BMA staff, to date, refused entry to South Africa for “about 95 000 people for a variety of reasons”, intercepted “about 35 000 individuals trying to subvert immigration laws and enter South Africa illegally” as well as “intercepting 139 stolen vehicles” handed to [SAPS] detectives for investigation.

Speaking at the recent Sovereign Security Conference Masiapato said due to fiscal constraints facing the country, the BMA is considering public-private partnership (PPP) approaches in various areas, including to redesign and redevelop the top six commercial ports of entry; develop staff quarters and acquire critical tools including unmanned aerial vehicles, off-road vehicles and boats. He said the six ports of entry – Beitbridge – Zimbabwe; Lebombo – Mozambique; Maseru Bridge – Lesotho; Ficksburg – Lesotho; Kopfontein – Botswana and Oshoek – Eswatini – will be redesigned, with additional vehicle lanes fitted with scanners, number plate recognition cameras etc.