The ongoing interaction between South Africa and Zimbabwe in the defence and security arenas came under the spotlight this week during the ninth meeting of a Joint Permanent Commission on Defence and Security at Vanderbijlpark.
Reports from the commission indicate xenophobia was discussed but no further details have emerged. Both countries also agreed to strengthen the fight against cross-border crime, using intelligence resources to the north and south of the Limpopo River.
The meeting between Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula and her Zimbabwean counterpart Sidney Sekeramayi was preceded by one of senior officials from both countries.
Illegal border crossings by Zimbabweans are one of the major headaches facing South African soldiers deployed on border protection duty but, to date, there has been no feedback from the meeting as to whether this issue was on the agenda.
South Africa is currently revising its entire migration policy with no less than 13 Cabinet Ministers serving on a Presidentially appointed inter-ministerial committee investigating ahead of making recommendations.
One of the major aspects is the long-awaited Border Management Agency (BMA). It will fall under the umbrella of the Department of Home Affairs and is expected to be fully operational by 2017.
Last December Minister in the Presidency for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation, Jeff Radebe, said January 2017 will see implementation of legislation to operate the BMA as a public entity in the ports of entry environments.
He was reported by SAnews as saying its functions would include “the air, land (border guard) and maritime (coast guard) environment”.
It appears BMA will concern itself with recognised ports of entry such as Beit Bridge (land), OR Tambo International airport (air) and the Port of Durban (sea) with the large tracts of South Africa’s largely uncontrolled and porous land borders left to the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) to patrol.
Operation Corona, the SANDF border protection tasking, currently has 13 companies deployed along South Africa’s landward borders with Botswana, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia, Swaziland and Zimbabwe. These SA Army elements are supported by a limited number of SA Air Force assets and also assist Kruger National Park anti-poaching personnel in the park which is bordered by both Mozambique and Zimbabwe.