“Urgent business” meant the launch of government’s latest border protection and safeguarding initiative was not attended by the most senior representative of one of the two major parties involved.
Home Affairs minister Malusi Gigaba was alone on the podium at Skukuza in the Kruger National Park on Friday to provide an introduction to Operation Pyramid. He was to have been joined by Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, Minister of Defence and Military Veterans. The Defence Ministry’s Joy Peter told defenceWeb Mapisa-Nqakula was called to other urgent government business.
“While the Minister herself could not attend the Operation Pyramid launch she has committed her department and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to the initiative,” Peter said, adding a number of senior officers had attended the Skukuza event.
According to the Department of Home Affairs, Operation Pyramid seeks to better co-ordinate and align government border projects, programmes and interventions. It is also one of the processes leading up to the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA) in 2017.
The SANDF is tasked with border protection along South Africa’s landward borders under Operation Corona. There are currently 13 companies deployed along South Africa’s borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe and a further two companies will be ordered to the same tasking in the current financial year. In addition to patrolling long stretches of land where roads are virtually non–existent and border fences, in many instances, have been pulled down to facilitate cross-border movement, soldiers on border protection duty in the Kruger National Park also assist rangers in anti-rhino poaching operations.
Speaking during the Operation Pyramid launch in Kruger’s “capital” Skukuza, Gigaba said its intention was to address steps being taken to “better secure national borders and the integrity of our national territory”.
“By so doing, we are not negating the wishes or dreams of the African Union, but are taking cognizance of the fact that before we can have free movement and remove colonial borders, we will need a gradual approach towards managing migration that takes account of the fact that African countries have different levels of attractiveness. Our migration policies, legislation, regulations and systems are unevenly developed and we need a risk-based approach to migration management.”
According to Gigaba, Operation Pyramid will focus on law enforcement; technology solutions; infrastructure improvement; border community development, bi- and multilateral, as well as intelligence driven operations.
First order of business for Operation Pyramid is now the roll-out of its various components to targeted and pilot areas in what the Minister termed “the borderline environment”.
He was appreciative of the work done by the SANDF saying: “It has, over the years that it has operated in the borderline environment performed exceptionally and in the process scored significant victories with regard to the apprehension of irregular migrants, weapons, stock and vehicles recovery, as well as criminals arrested and contraband seized”.
Operation Pyramid will see Police and the Departments of Transport, Department of Home Affairs, and Department of Defence work together to manage risks and threats arising from weak border security. Gigaba said this will help in human trafficking, rhino poaching and illegal entry of persons into the country.
The Department of Home Affairs has assumed leadership for the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) and 93 officials have been seconded to the BMA Project Management Office, The New Age reports.
Ports of entry which will serve as BMA Pilot sites have been identified for roll-out in 2015/2016 to test the new integrated model, with all officials under one command structure.