Border security issues highlighted in Free State and North West

713

A public hearing and an oversight visit in two provinces has brought home concerns about poor border security.

A public hearing in North West province’s Mogwase local municipality seeking input on the General Intelligence Laws Amendment Bill (GILAB) heard South Africa’s porous borders “were the biggest threats to State security” and “improved” intelligence service must address that.

Preceding the Saturday 14 April meeting, a pair of Democratic Alliance (DA) Free State provincial legislature public representatives saw for themselves the sorry state of the South African border with Lesotho in the south-east of the central province.

Reporting on the Mogwase meeting, Parliamentary Communication Services has it residents blamed weak border control for an influx of foreign nationals entering South Africa illegally. They allegedly commit crimes including dealing in drugs, human trafficking, kidnapping, manufacturing illegal goods and forcing local small business operators out “through anti-competitive business practice” the GILAB ad-hoc committee heard.

The committee heard the residents of Mogwase, 120 km from the closest Botswana port of entry (PoE) – Tlokweng – support GILAB and hope it will strengthen border control and stop corruption at the Department of Home Affairs (DHA).

Some 600 km south, in the south-east of South Africa’s central province, the Free State, the border with mountain kingdom Lesotho is single steel poles which used to support a four-strand fence.

DA provincial leader Roy Jankielsohn summed it up in one word – shocking.

The border area outside Wepener is, according to him, a hotspot for Basotho crossing into South Africa with livestock, a problem often experienced by farmers in the vicinity of the border. Crimes committed, allegedly by Basuto, include illegal grazing with its attendant ecological and biological risks, farm attacks, livestock and vehicle theft as well as drug trafficking. Other illegal activities are taxi violence and intimidation allegedly perpetrated by syndicates from Lesotho.

On his visit to the area Jankielsohn said a police presence was “non-existent”, opening the doors for international criminal syndicates to “work freely” between Lesotho and South Africa.

He was informed by locals that soldiers, stationed in the area as part of the national border protection tasking Operation Corona, as well as locally based police units support the syndicates rather than concentrating on border protection and crime in local communities.