The establishment of a dedicated border control and management instrument has taken a further step to fruition with publication of the draft Border Management Agency (BMA) Bill which envisages the creation of a dedicated border guard.
It was published in the Government Gazette of August 5 and updated a day later to include the first page “erroneously” left out. This was after acting Cabinet spokesman Phumla Williams indicated it would be published on July 30, two days after a monthly Cabinet meeting.
The Department of Home Affairs, the lead government department in the BMA, is seeking public comment on the bill which has to reach it by September 4 at the latest.
The draft bill contains definitions, applications and the act’s purpose as well as sections pertinent to the establishment, function and structure of the BMA.
The purpose of the act 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”.
Haniff Hoosen, opposition Democratic Alliance (DA) party shadow Home Affairs Minister, said his initial reaction was that the intention of the bill was “not a bad idea” but stressed there was “still much work and research to be done” before any final conclusions could be reached.
One of the BMA’s functions, as set out in the draft bill, is to perform border law enforcement functions “within the borderline and at ports of entry”. According to the act, borderline is South Africa’s land border, 10km or any reasonable distance from the country’s internationally recognised borders; the South African exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is the maritime border and the air borderline is excluded with the proviso that the SANDF will assume border law enforcement and border protection responsibility here.
Hoosen worries the border definition, when taken into account with the duty of a border guard to conduct an inspection or search, will be “troublesome”.
“The borderline should be specified in each case where a port of entry is situated,” he said giving the example of the ports of Cape Town, Durban, Port Elizabeth and Richards Bay as examples.
“There are literally hundreds of private businesses in close proximity to these ports of entry and searches are, as the bill stands, going to be troublesome.”
As far as structure is concerned the draft envisages the creation of a border guard. This ties in with a December 2014 statement by Minister in the Presidency Jeff Radebe that both a border and a coast guard will come into being as part of the BMA. No mention is made of whether the border guard will be staffed by soldiers currently in the SANDF or whether its members will be new recruits who will have to be trained and equipped before becoming operational.