Four hundred more border guards enter service

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As of today (Thursday, 16 May) Border Management Authority (BMA) Commissioner and Chief Executive Michael Masiapato has another 400 trained personnel to deploy in the South African government’s ongoing border protection efforts.

The SA Police Service (SAPS) College hosted what SANews refers to as “a pass out parade” at its Pretoria West campus for the new junior guards. They will be deployed at various ports of entry through the country and will be “officially assigned as law enforcement officers”, after training with the SA National Defence Force, SA Police Service, SA Revenue Service, and Road Traffic Management Authority, amongst others. This gives them the power and responsibility to arrest and detain illegal immigrants.

Adding to the BMA, over 100 “border management response” vehicles are also on display at the passing out parade.

Home Affairs Deputy Minister Njabulo Nzuza said, “We have deployed them to vulnerable segments where there is higher risk, so that we can get maximum value. For instance, about 100 of them will be sent to Beitbridge Border Post which is very notorious where we get a lot of the troubles. So, we are sending them out today and they have been in training for about seven months, and their training [includes] physical training, how to handle a firearm, administration, how to carry out paperwork when it comes to court and filing documents. Also the ability to detect false documents and all those things that are at risk in the border environment.”

Masiapato, speaking to SABC News at the parade, said the majority of border guards will be going to the most problematic points of entry to deal with illegal migration, illicit cigarettes, human trafficking and smuggling, amongst others. In addition to the 100 at Beitbridge, 90 will be sent to the Lebombo port of entry with Mozambique, 90 will go to Lesotho ports of entry, and around 29 are reserved for the BMA’s special response team in Pretoria to respond to any port of entry challenge that will arise at any time.

Masiapato said the BMA started operations in April last year and was officially launched in October. It has been able to intercept around 280 000 people trying to enter South Africa illegally, including some individuals without any documentation and some criminals. The BMA has stopped 161 vehicles leaving South Africa illegally – primarily into Mozambique – and prevented 395 explosives from being smuggled in from Zimbabwe. They would have most likely been used in cash in transit heists and illegal mining, Masiapato said.

A BMA statement has it the passing out parade “comes during South Africa’s 30 years of democracy following years of struggle to curb illegal movement at ports of entry and along the borderline”.

“In the backdrop of an ever-challenging border environment, these border guards are expected to stand firm, protecting the country’s borders with vigilance and valour.

“Our nation’s borders are complex and therefore require discipline and courage to carry out the border management mandate. In other settings, daily you are faced with illegal migrants attempting to enter the country or smuggle illegal goods in or out of South Africa,” the statement reads, in part.

The BMA, President Cyril Ramaphosa said when officially launching the authority in Musina last year, is the newest component of government’s security apparatus. It joins the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), actively deployed on border protection since 2009, which sees 15 companies patrol land borders, and the SAPS with its own border security units, part of its Visible Policing and Operations Division.