Criminals jump Maseru Bridge: DA

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The Parliamentary opposition Democratic Alliance party says the absence of calthrops means that brazen car thieves are able to speed stolen vehicles through the Maseru Bridge border post into Lesotho – and have been able to do so for “a number of years.

The party’s Greg Krumbock says officials at the border recently told Members of Parliament motor vehicles drive up to the border post and after pretending to stop, accelerate at high speed into Lesotho.

 

“I was stunned to hear officials relate to me that the situation has persisted for a number of years and that at least one SAPS (South African Police Service) member has been wounded after firearms were discharged in one such incident.”

 

Krumbock says the Lesotho border post is out of sight of the SA post. It is not clear if the Lesotho police is aware problem or acts against such border jumpers. Failing to comply with South African law is likely not an offense in Lesotho.

 

The Sowetan newspaper last week reported that the Tourism and Home Affairs portfolio committees had declared the post as “not ready for the 2010 World Cup.”

The committee visited ports of entry – Beitbridge, Maseru Bridge, Ficksburg, Fouriesburg and OR Tambo International Airport and concluded that Maseru Bridge had serious problems, the paper said.

 

The Sowetan quoted “parliamentary spokesperson” Mava Lukani as saying that although all of the border posts faced difficulties,” the committee found that problems at Maseru Bridge were serious and the border post was not ready for next year’s soccer World Cup.

 

“Some of the problems discovered at Maseru Bridge were poor management, lack of proper equipment and staff shortages,” Lukani said.

 

He said the committee discovered that the border post had only four police officers instead of the required 20 per shift.

 

“This obviously compromises security as it leads to inadequate searching of vehicles and pedestrians. There are also no scanners and sniffer dogs.”

 

Lukani was not aware of plans in place to remedy the situation.

 

Krumbock says the complete lack of basic and inexpensive crime fighting infrastructure at Maseru Bridge port of entry is completely unacceptable.

 

He says calthrops or “simple retractable arrester spikes” in the roadway would prevent criminals from jumping the border.

 

“Officials I met during the oversight visit testified that most, if not all, of the vehicles that gate crashed the border post were vehicles stolen in South Africa.”

 

A retired military officer familiar with border issues says the situation at border posts are exacerbated by disagreements between state departments on the ownership of such facilities and each’s function and responsibility. The officer noted that even seemingly simple tasks, such as mending broken fences, were fraught with difficulty in that no department wanted to take ownership of perimeter fences – and bear the financial burden of the repairs.

 

Earlier this month Krumbock’s colleague – DA shadow deputy transport minister Manny de Freitas – said up to 85% of South Africa’s border posts were only staffed part time – or not at all.

 

He said the Cross Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA) had told the Portfolio Committee on Transport that just eight of 52 border points were manned on a full-time basis. Twenty-six are manned part-time and thirty are not staffed at all.

 

While De Freitas was speaking only about land border posts, his defence colleagues David Maynier and James Lorimer in July noted there was on average just one policeman to guard every 7km of the 4862 kilometres of landward border between border posts.

 

De Freitas added the CBRTA’s admission followed on the back of National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele`s “admission” that the South African Navy and the South African Police Service (SAPS) did not have the capacity to patrol SA’s 3000km coastline, which is also a borderline.

 

President Jacob Zuma in his inaugural State of the Nation Address in June announced the formation of a Border Management Agency (BMA) to address the issues. It is not clear what progress has been made.

 

For more on this topic, consider attending defenceWeb‘s Border Control conference, scheduled to be held February 9-10, 2010, at Gallagher Estate in Midrand.

 

For more information contact Maggie Pienaar at [email protected] or 011 807 3294