Justice and Constitutional Development minister Jeff Radebe says government will establish a border management agency this year.
Addressing journalists yesterday at a briefing on the activities of Cabinet’s Justice, Crime Prevention and Security Cluster for the next year, Radebe said the agency “will improve the security of our borders and ports of entry and promote cooperation of security agencies in the region and meanwhile boosting the economic trade relations. It shall also bring about improved management of population registers in Southern Africa.”
Radebe’s is the first word on the agency since State Security minister Siyabonga Cwele referred to it his budget vote last July. Cwele said “deficiencies in the control and security of our borders have been … a challenge for some time now. These emanate mainly from lack integration by departments at our ports of entry. They are facilitated by corrupt officials; they are exploited by trans-national crime and people smuggling syndicates.”
“Notwithstanding the improvements made by interdepartmental initiatives led by the Border Control Coordination Committee (BCOCC), our efforts still lack sufficient synergy. We must be in a position to maintain our territorial integrity, expedite the legitimate movement of people and goods, whilst deterring and identifying illegal or hostile cross-border movement,” Cwele said when announcing his department had been charged “with the responsibility of coordinating the process towards the development of a framework for the establishment of the BMA…”
In his inaugural State of the Nation Address (SONA) last June, President Jacob Zuma said his government would pay “the most serious attention” to combating crime. “Amongst other key initiatives, we will start the process of setting up a Border Management Agency (BMA).”
Zuma made no mention at all of the agency in his second SONA last week. There is one brief reference to it in the police budget section of the Estimates of National Expenditure released last month by the National Treasury. The document notes the establishment of a border management agency to “manage migration, customs and land borderline control services,” but does not provide any further explanation.
Radebe also confirmed that the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) will begin taking over responsibility for borderline security from the police on the first of next month. “From April 1 2010 the SANDF will commence with the deployment of four companies on the South African side of Zimbabwe and Mozambique borders,” he said.
Deputy defence minister Thabang Makwetla said this amounted to about 540 personnel. He added to a question that the deployment of the SANDF to the Lesotho border was dependent “on how quick the budget that the defence force needs for this deployment is going to be made available.”
frican National Defence Force last week Wednesday briefed the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans on its plans to return to the country’s borders after a decision by Cabinet last November.
According to a briefing by the Chief of Joint Operations (J Ops), Lieutenant General Themba Matanzima and his Chief Director for Operations, Rear Admiral Philip Schöultz to Parliament last month, the military will re-introduce foot- and standing patrols, observation and listening posts, vehicle control points, reaction force and follow up operations (to include the extended border area) and depth operations (“road blocks to a depth of 20km to the rear of the borderline in conjunction with the SAPS”) in addition to intelligence operations to collect information on illegal cross border activities.
Matanzima and Schöultz added the SANDF would return to the borders in a phased manner, starting with the Zimbabwean and Mozambican borders. Under Phase 1 of Operation Corona four companies will be deployed as well as two engineer troops (platoons, about 30-40 soldiers each) to repair and maintain the Nabob fence.
In the second phase, a further four companies as well as an engineer squadron (company) will thicken deployments along the Zimbabwe and Mozambican frontier. During Phase 3,the number of deployed infantry companies will climb to 11 and deployments will begin along the Swazi and Lesotho borders. Phase 4 will see force levels climb to 14 infantry companies with deployments along the Free State and Eastern Cape boundaries with Lesotho. The police will continue their much-criticised border patrols until relieved by the military.