Indications are the Border Management Agency (BMA) should become reality this year with Cabinet approval for the BMA Bill a fait accompli, the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster said in a statement.
The new agency will assume full control of ports of entry and borderline functions and will also, once it is operational, take over operational responsibility for all ports of entry into South Africa. This includes land border posts such as Beit Bridge, ports such as Durban and airports such as Oliver Tambo International in Ekurhuleni.
The cluster statement said that South Africa continues to “enhance” legislation and regulations to effectively safeguard the country by managing and minimising risks. These include what it called “the phenomenon of international migration”.
Key challenges facing border management in South Africa are, according to the cluster, human movement, transnational organised crime, criminal activities, terrorism, endangered species and natural resources as well as animal, plant and human diseases.
The draft BMA bill was published for public comment last August with an input deadline of September 4. Its purpose is to exercise border law enforcement functions; manage legitimate movement of persons and goods across borderlines and at ports of entry; co-ordinate with “other organs of state, through the principles of co-operative governance” the functions performed by them in border management and provide “an enabling environment to facilitate legitimate trade”.
The draft bill also envisages the creation of a border guard which ties in with a December 2014 statement by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe that both a border and coast guard will come into being as part of the BMA. There is currently no indication of whether the border guard will be staffed by soldiers currently in the SA National Defence Force or whether new recruits, who have to be trained and equipped, will be sought.
Last year government launched Operation Pyramid in the Kruger National Park as part of its overall border management approach. The operation aims to improve co-ordination and co-operation between government and civil society to better secure air, land and sea borders and focuses on law enforcement, infrastructure improvement, border community development and intelligence driven operations.