Just days after the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) announced plans to reposition itself as a “security nerve centre” a Parliamentary committee gave the nod of approval to the Border Management Authority (BMA) bill.
The Department of Home Affairs (DHA) plans to reposition itself as the nerve centre of security and be the backbone of digital platforms the lives of the majority of South Africans are inextricably linked to.
The first moves to bring Minister Malusi Gigaba’s department into the heart of Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster go back to February last year. A new business case was put to Cabinet stating DHA was “constrained by legacy systems, capacity and budgets and could not be secured and carry out its full mandate as a critical enabler of security and development”.
Addressing a media conference in Pretoria, DHA director-general Mkuseli Apleni said the repositioning of the department would see it move from the periphery of the state to the centre.
“The vision of the department will continue to be ‘a safe, secure South Africa where all of its people are proud of, and value, their identity and citizenship’. A home affairs department that is not secure puts every individual and the nation at risk and undermines the value of our identity and citizenship,” he said adding a secure department can play an important role in the security system of the state and it should be located in that system.
DHA is the main driver of the Border Management Authority (BMA) scheduled to become operational this year with the task of better control and management of South Africa’s 72 legal points of entry and exit. DHA, along with the SA Police Services, SA Revenue Services, the national Department of Health and to a lesser extent, the SA National Defence Force, currently man border posts.
South Africa has more than 4 863 kilometres of land border with six neighbouring countries. They are: Botswana (1 840 km), Lesotho (909 km), Mozambique (491 km), Namibia (967 km), Swaziland (430 km) and Zimbabwe (225 km).
At the same time the responsibility for ensuring territorial integrity by stopping the flow of illegal immigrants to South Africa across the majority of the almost four thousand nine hundred kilometres between the official points of entry and exit rests only in the hands of the SANDF. It appears the proposed BMA will confine itself only to recognised border posts leaving the rest to the military.
Indications are the current deployment of 15 companies, the majority of which are Reserve Force, will not be increased in the 2017/18 financial year.
The next step on the road to the DHA becoming part of government’s central security organ will be asking for public discussion and engagement that will inform the drafting of a White Paper to be gazetted for public comment by April 2018.
The BMA, originally conceptualised as a government agency but in line with the importance attached to point of entry and exit services performed by government, was upgraded to authority status last year. Parliament’s Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs last week completed its part in processing legislation on the BMA Bill which will now be forwarded the National Assembly for adoption.
A Parliamentary statement said the BMA Bill was drafted to remedy “the fragmented border management model used at South African ports of entry”.
“The bill seeks to establish a single implementing entity under a single executive authority.
“The committee has since its inception highlighted the need for urgency in efforts to deal with porous borders. As such, the completion of this process is a step in the right direction in securing borders in a co-ordinated way,” the statement issued by committee chair Lemias Mashile said.