Armscor to acquire speedboats for Border Management Authority

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The newly established Border Management Authority (BMA) has tasked state defence materiel agency Armscor with acquiring speedboats so its Coastal Guards can patrol South Africa’s maritime borders.

This is according to BMA Commissioner Dr Mike Masiapato, who on 6 March briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on cooperation between the BMA and the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) on the border environment.

With regard to sea borders, Masiapato’s presentation revealed that BMA Coastal Guard units have been deployed to eight sites along the South African coastline, with an initial personnel strength of 50.

The Coast Guards have been deployed at the various maritime ports of entry (main harbours like Durban, Cape Town and Gqeberha) and are also protecting marine resources. “Coast Guards conduct maritime border law enforcement functions such as preventing and combating of human trafficking and the illegal movement of vessels,” the BMA said

The BMA is, through state defence materiel agency Armscor, in the process of acquiring patrol boats to patrol the maritime environment and to ensure domain awareness, Masiapato said.

The BMA added that, “the role of the Maritime Border Guards will not clash with that of the SA Navy of border safeguarding and defending the territorial integrity of South Africa.”

The BMA has cooperation agreements in place with the South African National Defence Force, South African Police Service (SAPS) and SA Revenue Service (SARS) to strengthen the safeguarding of the country’s borders, with the SANDF responsible for monitoring vulnerable sections of the borderline.

Masiapato explained that in May 2022 the BMA signed an ‘implementation protocol’ with the SANDF to monitor the vulnerable portions of the land border. Border guards are deployed along eight areas of the border (primarily Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Eswatini and Mozambique), with joint operations and collaboration envisaged with the SANDF as deployments are co-located along SANDF Operation Corona border safeguarding deployments.

Challenges regarding BMA/SANDF collaboration exist, however, and these include the absence of coherent surveillance technologies such as unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), the absence of integrated radio communication system between the BMA and SANDF; limited capacity in a huge borderline terrain (4 772 km of land and 3 900 km of sea borders); and operational budgets constraints. Masiapato did say the SANDF is in the process of acquiring some UAVs for border surveillance.

In fact, R700 million has been allocated by National Treasury to the SANDF for border surveillance technology, including radars, UAVs, and cameras, as well as vehicles.

Masiapato said capacitation of the SANDF is needed to take care of the areas in which the BMA, SAPS and SARS do not operate and ensure the country’s territorial integrity is preserved.

The BMA said it aims to support the SANDF deployment as well as share information with other forces in the border enforcement area, and engage with neighbouring countries on matters related to border security.

“The BMA have formalised collaboration with other law enforcement authorities to strengthen border law enforcement such as the SANDF, SAPS and SARS as well as co-ordination with other organs of state, entities and communities,” Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi said in response to a recent parliamentary question from ANC MP Anthea Ramolobeng.

An initial 200 border guards were deployed in July 2022 ahead of the BMA’s full establishment in July 2023 and official launch in October. Masiapato said the BMA has from 14 July 2022 to date apprehended and processed 240 000 undocumented migrants. Significant quantities of illicit goods and drugs have also been seized.