BMA: Can structure precede policy?


South Africa’s Border Management Agency (BMA) may fail if structure is allowed to precede policy, it has emerged at defenceWeb’s Border Control Africa conference.

Institute for Security Studies Africa Peace Missions programme head Henri Boshoff says despite recent pronouncements by President Jacob Zuma and Cabinet ministers on border control, there is great uncertainty today on which policy is in place. Yet justice minister Jeff Radebe this month said the BMA would be established this year.

Boshoff says the South African National Defence Force, not the police, are ultimately responsible for protecting the national borders in terms of the 1996 Constitution. “The primary object of the defence force is to defend and protect the Republic, its territorial integrity and its people in accordance with the Constitution and the principles of international law regulating the use of force”.

By contrast, the constitutional mandate of the police “makes it clear that border control is not its function”. The task of the police service is “to prevent, combat and investigate crime, to maintain public order, to protect and secure the inhabitants of the Republic and their property, and to uphold and enforce the law.”

Boshoff argues the SANDF was removed from SA’s borders in terms of a 2003 Presidential announcement that would have seen the military hand back its last responsibilities in March last year. “Reading the 1998 Defence Review, it was clearly assumed, without any analysis having been conducted to support this conclusion, that the SAPS would be capable of adequately combating crime and driving down the high levels of violence in the country.
“The 2003 decision spelled out the withdrawal of the SANDF in detail. The departments of Defence and of Safety and Security at the time established a joint SANDF-SAPS Exit-Entry Strategy Steering Committee to manage the process. This steering committee was eventually replaced by a dedicated Joint Task Team to plan, coordinate and monitor the implementation of the exit-entry strategy at national and provincial level.
“The strategy made provision for certain exit criteria for the SANDF. These were the police filling every possible vacuum the SANDF had left as a result of their withdrawal from continuous support in ensuring urban, rural and borderline safety; the SANDF sustaining the capacity, in accordance with an approved inter-departmental agreement, to support the police in joint crime combating operations where the police could not contain the situation on their own; and the SANDF sustaining their command-and-control capacity as part of the JOINTS (Joint Operational Intelligence System, a command and control mechanism) to ensure joint command and control in support of the people of South Africa.” The SANDF would also maintain support to the SAPS regarding maritime and air borderline control function.

The police were to develop their capacity “to take full responsibility for crime combating in urban and rural areas, as well as for the control of the landward borderline of SA.” Their entry criteria included the creation of a National Intervention Unit available as force multiplier across provincial boundaries whenever their support was requested, the establishing of 43 area crime combating units inter alia capable of executing borderline duties and the establishment of sector policing.

But the last, in particular, has been an unmitigated failure. “Research conducted by the ISS last year, as well as a performance audit by the Auditor General (AG) on the Border Control and Police Advisory Council found that the SAPS has failed to take over the function of borderline control from the SANDF,” Boshoff says. “In addition the AG found a lack of interdepartmental training and no all-inclusive borderline-specific training curriculum in place. As far as human resources are concerned, there is an under capacity of 71% (the proposed personnel structure is 970 members while the actual number is only 283),” Boshoff says.
“This means that the primary function of borderline-control cannot be effectively carried out. The AG also found no security analysis of the border fences had been performed. Places were found where border fences were inadequate or even non-existent. There were no compensating patrols or monitoring processes in place in areas where there are no or inadequate border fences.”

Boshoff says Cabinet officially reversed the 2003 decision on November 18 last year, again assigning borderline control and protection to the SANDF. “The new deployment of the SANDF will be incorporated into the border control strategy being finalised by the JCPS (Justice, Crime Prevention and Security) cluster. The cluster includes the departments of Defence and Veterans, Correctional Services, Home Affairs, Justice, Police and State Security.” But Boshoff cautions that the border control strategy has been approaching finality for the last eight years…

He also warns the redeployment of the SANDF “will take a while, as they has to get new equipment and start to build up intelligence, as well as command-and-control again. The SANDF will need funding to restore border bases, new vehicles, other mission specific equipment, proper mission-specific training, and deployment allowances. They will also have to find a way to regain the local knowledge of the border areas [that have been] lost.” Another question is how long the SANDF will be taking back the function for. Is it a temporary arrangement, or something more permanent?
“The return of the SANDF to the function of borderline control in isolation will also not be successful,” he further cautions. “It must be seen against the concept of border protection that includes border post, borderline and area protection. The implementation of area protection was based on the deployment of area protection units in the form of Commando units. They were disbanded between 2003 and 2008 and the function was supposed to have been taken over by sector policing. Reports and research indicates that this concept has also failed. It is unclear how that will be rectified.”