The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will play an important role in the Border Management Authority (BMA) in safeguarding South Africa’s air, land and sea borders.
The BMA was signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa at the end of July. It will replace different agencies and organs of government all playing different roles in managing aspects of border control, ensuring effective and efficient border law enforcement functions at ports of entry and borders.
The new law provides for the establishment, organisation, regulation, functions and control of the BMA, the appointment of its commissioner, deputy commissioners and officials. The law provides for terms of office, conditions of service and functions and powers. The BMA law will also see establishment of an Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee, Border Technical Committee and advisory committees. These will review or appeal decisions of officers and define offences and penalties.
Elroy Africa, head of the Border Management Authority (BMA) Project Office within the Department of Home Affairs, told the Sovereign Security conference on 6 August that although the president has signed the BMA Act into law, the Authority does not yet exist, but it will hopefully become operational soon.
He told delegates that the Department of Home Affairs has been trusted with the responsibility to give birth to this organ of state. The SANDF will keep its exclusive mandate regarding border protection and will cooperate with and complement the BMA. However, the BMA Act formally excludes the SANDF from Border Management Authority decisions.
The South African Police Service is responsible for law enforcement and will need a formal cooperation agreement with the BMA. Ports of entry will in future only have two organs of state involved: the BMA and South African Revenue Service, Africa said. This will streamline command and control, improving overall management and efficiencies.
He said there must be a protocol in place between the BMA, SANDF, SAPS and SARS and hopes this will be concluded soon as strategic and tactical cooperation between these entities is necessary. Apart from South African state entities, the BMA also needs to interact with South Africa’s six neighbouring countries. Africa said joint technical working groups have been established with five neighbours, with a focus on establishing one-stop border posts. I
Bongani Bongo, Chairperson of the Border Management Authority, said he is looking forward to implementing the BMA, and has started coordinating the Department of Defence and Treasury in terms of implementation of the Act. He said Home Affairs is also working closely to get the Authority up and running.
“As part of the Home Affairs Portfolio Committee we are quite concerned about the border issue,” he said, as South Africa’s borders are highly porous. The BMA will address this issue and bring together eight departments together under one roof and 58 different pieces of legislation to manage border control.
Bongo said there were a number of challenges, including balancing economic activity, freedom of movement and soft borders with criminality, smuggling and other border issues. Another issue is budgetary declines, but technology can be used as a cost-effective force multiplier.
According to Africa, six commercia ports of entry have been identified which need to be overhauled out of South Africa’s 72 ports of entry. Several land borderline areas will also be strengthened. Bongo said Beit Bridge and Lebombo are problematic areas especially with regard to alcohol and cigarette smuggling amid the coronavirus lockdown. The South Africa-Mozambique border is a particular hotspot regarding cross-border crime, especially with stolen/hijacked vehicles leaving South Africa along this route.