The police say they are understaffed at the country’s border points of entry with just 5588 of 14 782 posts filled.
The police ministry says the police hope to have half the posts filled by 2015, “depending on the availability of funds.”
The ministry gave the answer after Democratic Alliance MP Greg Krumbock asked questions about the Maseru Bridge port of entry linking South Africa and Lesotho following a visit by MPs there in October.
The Sowetan newspaper at the time reported that the MPs had found 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,” the paper quoted a spokesman as saying.
He said the joint home affairs and tourism committee visit discovered that the border post had only four police officers instead of the required 20 per shift.
The police ministry explained in an answer to Krumbock last month that prior to 2006 the “the ideal structure according to the then Resource Establishment Program (REP) was 640 members” for all ports of entry “and the actual number of members was 846.”
The answer said “609 permanent members were placed at 53 land ports, 110 permanent members were placed at eight sea ports and 127 permanent members were placed at 10 airports.
“Since 2006, the Ports of Entry structure was upgraded from 640 posts to 14 782 posts. Based on an annual allocation, the department is trying to staff all Ports in order of priority starting with major commercial ports. The number of members placed at all Ports of Entry has increased from 846 to 5588.”
The police ministry says in the case of Maseru Bridge, the pre-2006 REP approved structure was for 72 police officers, but just 36 posts were staffed.
“The structure was upgraded by the National Commissioner [of police] on [April 3,2006] to increase the total number of members to 304, based on the new developments, challenges and increased migration patterns.”
At present there are 61 “functional members”, seven civilian personnel and two dog handlers deployed at the border crossing on a rotation basis,versus the current ideal of 294 “functional members” and ten civilians, translating to a shortage of 234 people.
In October DA shadow deputy transport minister Manny de Freitas said up to 85% of South Africa’s borders are unprotected.
He said that according to the Cross Border Road Transport Agency (CBRTA) only eight of the country’s land border ports of entry were manned on a full-time basis. Twenty-six were manned part-time and thirty were not manned at all.
De Freitas added the CBRTA’s admission followed on the back of National Police Commissioner Bheki Cele`s admission yesterday 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.
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.
As a result the “border is wide open, making local residents … vulnerable to transnational crime – especially stock theft.”
“Moreover, in this financial year the police plan to spend more on “VIP Protection Services” (R380 004 000) than on “Borderline Security” (R224 969 000).”
For more on this consider attending defenceWeb’s border control conference March 17 & 18 at Gallagher Estate, Midrand, Gauteng
Pic: The Maseru Bridge port of entry