Police not withdrawing from borders: Mthethwa

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The police are not withdrawing from the national borders, their minister says. Nathi Mthethwa adds the police last year spent R123.8 million guarding the land and sea border.

In a written answer to a question asked by the Democratic Alliance, Mthethwa says the police and South African National Defence Force (SANDF) “is currently in the process of developing a strategy with the focus on joint deployment along the borders of the RSA. The [police] will still be responsible for performing the policing function along the borders.” This is important as the military does not have police powers, including arrest, nor the training, equipment or paperwork to process suspected criminals.

This follows a Cabinet decision last year to return the SANDF to the land border, effective reversing a 2003 decision that was to have removed the military from border duty by March last year.

Mthethwa adds the police currently have 1182 officers – out of some 190 000 – “deployed at the various landward borderlines.” The police is responsible for patrolling 4862km of land borderline and 3895km sea borderline, his answer adds. However, the SA Navy says the SA sea border is 3924km in length, inclusive of the remote Prince Edward Islands where there are no police deployed. The US CIA Fact Book puts the mainland coast at 2798km.

The minister also says the police spent R123 871 670 on securing the land border in the financial year that ended March 31 this year. This includes personnel expenditure, goods and services, transfer and subsidies as well as capital assets and breaks down as:

  • Northern Cape SA/Namibia borderline: R 5 800 193
  • North West SA/Botswana borderline: R 4 788 220
  • Limpopo SA/Zimbabwe/Mozambique borderline: R 24 955 482
  • Mpumalanga SA/Mozambique/Swaziland borderline: R 29 385 352
  • Eastern Cape SA/Lesotho borderline: R 13 079 728
  • KwaZulu-Natal SA/Lesotho/Mozambique borderline: R 28 618 861
  • Free State SA/Lesotho borderline: R 19 243 834

However, it is not immediately clear how this money was spent. Members of Parliament last month expressed alarm at the poor state of border fencing and facilities. “Looking at the fence line, the physical infrastructure, I’m left with one question: What have the police been doing in the last three years?” asked Democratic Alliance (DA) MP David Maynier after he and other parliamentarians were shown that the border fence with Zimbabwe was riddled with holes, some only a few metres apart. Mnyamazeli Booi, chairman of the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans also found the condition on the borders and the deterioration of the infrastructure “shocking”.



Pic: Part of the Zimbabwe frontier in better days