New border fencing and improved military facilities in the pipeline

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The newest addition to South Africa’s list of agencies, authorities and other government sanctioned organisations – the Border Management Authority (BMA) – is set to take its first operational steps in the upcoming festive season.

The Parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs (PCHA) and the Select Committee on Security and Justice heard earlier this month (December) discussions were underway with the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) hierarchy to finalise a memorandum of agreement allowing for part-time soldiers to be called up on detached service to the BMA. They are apparently going to be involved in patrol work alongside Department of Home Affairs (DHA) officials.

Apart from almost immediate deployment, the defence/home affairs discussions cover what was termed “seconding” the Reserve Force. This some parliamentarians took to indicate part-time soldiers could well be the nucleus of the BMA’s border guard conducting law enforcement at ports of entry and on the borderline. The BMA border guard will be “launched sometime early next year”.

One parliamentarian with concerns, particularly as regards the BMA’s cost, is Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow home affairs minister Adrian Roos.

He asks initially how the BMA is allowed to go ahead without secured funding in the light of presentations outlining, among others, a personnel cost of R2 974 962 978 and a further R5 281 133 622 for goods and services. There was, in the Parliamentary presentation, no indication of the goods and services cost decreasing once specific goods, for example office equipment, are acquired.

Roos would rather the BMA has as its major tasking co-ordination of border control and security. “Make funding for maintenance and repair (of border headquarters buildings, including water provision and ablution facilities) available to the Defence Works Formation (DWF) and boost the allocation for SANDF patrols.”

An approach of this type should see  National Treasury either come forward with “funding guarantees for full implementation of the BMA or its mandate should be adjusted to that of a lead agency”.

“This agency would be responsible for development and implementation of coherent border security and control policy, facilitating co-operation and co-ordination between border stakeholders,” Roos said adding this approach was an option put forward in the socio-economic impact assessment of the BMA bill.

“For the foreseeable future while SANDF border patrols suffer crippling underfunding and delinquent border washing line builders are back in business, the BMA will busy itself with stationery, uniforms and duplication of administrative staff. The hope is National Treasury will be able to fund it sufficiently to avoid becoming a bureaucratic shell staffed with millionaire managers,” is his take on BMA appointments and the necessities associated with setting up offices.

Knowing hindsight is 20/20, Roos goes back to 2003 when the SANDF was “removed” from border security in favour of the SA Police Service (SAPS).

“By 2008 it was apparent SAPS would not be able to adequately manage border security alone. In 2009 government reversed the decision with the SANDF redeployed to secure border areas under Operation Corona.

“We cannot afford to backtrack again and sit with a bureaucratic beached whale in five years’ time.”

Parliament’s Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) last week heard that borderline infrastructure is dilapidated including fences, patrol roads, ICT (information and communication technology and security systems.

Problems associated with porous borders include illegal crossing and unauthorised movement of people; increase in crime resulting in illegal movement of stolen goods, animals and vehicles theft; and a consequent impact on state security.

“The securing of South African borders has become a priority and one of national  importance for South Africa,” the JSCD heard. Border security is an inter-departmental approach, with the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) as lead for the BMA and securing ports of entry; the Department of Defence is responsible for securing and protecting the borderline; and the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is responsible for looking after strategic infrastructure.

As part of a medium to long term borderline infrastructure solution, site clearing for integrated  borderline fencing and patrol roads is  underway for borderlines patrolled by the SANDF, including Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Lesotho and Eswatini.

Site clearance and fencing of around 1 800 km of border is, according to Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), a three phase project with completion estimated in up to five years.

The phases, including sub-phases, are pre-planning with provisional site clearing; request for proposals (RfI) to address evaluation criteria and terms of reference; planning for the upgrade and “redevelopment” of border fences; with tenders and construction over a proposed three to five year period last in line.

Site clearance between Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa (700 km) is estimated as costing R21 million while redeveloping border fences and patrol roads between Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Botswana and South Africa (700 km) is going to cost R1.3 billion over five years. Funding can only be approved by the Department of Defence and National Treasury, the DPWI presentation to the JSCD said.



Allocated funding to the tune of R8.5 million is currently going to upgrading Operation Corona operational bases, such as Macadamia, and replacing  tented accommodation components. A further R35 million is earmarked for new soldier accommodation and facilities.