The latest addition to the South African government’s security quiver – its Border Management Authority (BMA) – will appear to operate in and around the ports of entry, with the essentials of border protection remaining an SA National Defense Force (SANDF) tasking through patrolling, observation posts and intelligence gathering .
This came to light in a written response from Home Secretary Aaron Motsoaledi to a parliamentary question from Adrian Roos. He is the Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow minister for home affairs and an outspoken critic of the BMA, particularly in relation to its cost, both to set up and later to administer and operate.
Roos asked Motsoaledi for details on the differences in responsibilities between the “200 border guards” recently commissioned by the BMA and the SANDF. Soldiers, mostly from infantry battalions and SA Army Reserve Force units, do the border patrol hardyards in accordance with the national Operation Corona task. Currently, 15 companies, referred to as sub-entities in some official reports and statements, are responsible for South Africa’s 4 773 km land border. In his reply to Roos, Motsoaledi points out that 13 companies currently have this obligation.
Motsoaledi’s response, in genuine government language, reads: “As clearly stated in the South African Constitution and Defense Act, the responsibility of members of the Defense Forces is to protect and maintain the territorial integrity of the country by patrolling the 4 773 kilometers of the land border areas, including.” the sea coast. They have currently deployed 13 companies to fulfill this responsibility through the application of a high mobility point-to-point (sic) patrol mechanism”.
The minister continues: “Therefore, in terms of border protection, it should be noted that our sub-region has a number of interconnected municipalities that have been divided in half by the border fence. For example, in the North West Province there is Batswana on the South African side and the Batswana on the Botswana side. In Mpumalanga there are communities with Ba-Swati on the South African side and Ba-Swati on the eSwatini side. In the Free State there are Basotho on the South African side and the Basotho on the Lesotho side. Therefore, this situation means that there is a lot of civil activity taking place between South Africa and its immediate neighbors (sic).
“These activities have been going on in these areas for centuries. Hence our concern at this point is the fact that these areas have been hijacked by criminal elements who then move counterfeit goods through these communities for their own nefarious (sic) gain.
“For this reason, the BMA border guards would be deployed statically in these communities to monitor their activities with the intention of taking decisive action against any criminal element taking advantage of the situation. In addition, the BMA would register these types of areas and designate them as informal community border crossings and statically deploy border guards to monitor these civilian activities (sic).”
Regarding the responsibilities of border guards, the minister’s response said: “There are certain areas outside the communities along the border that are being exploited by criminal elements to further their illegal activities. In this case, members of the SANDF and the Border Guard would jointly identify such areas (known as vulnerable sections of the borderline) and bring the latter to be statically deployed in those sections.
“This approach aims to allow SANDF members to freely deploy their high mobility deployment mechanism while areas of concern are adequately protected by border guards.
“In addition, since Border Patrol agents would authorize immigration, agriculture and environmental laws, among others, the SANDF would be able to turn intercepted civilians over to Border Patrol agents for processing (e.g. fingerprinting, declaration of undesirable and conducting deportations).
“Finally, the BMA Act empowers border guards to effectively protect the port of entry, including its 10-kilometer radius, to detect any traveler who, for whatever reason, avoids using the port. The use of the border guards at the border should not compete with the deployed members of the SANDF (sic).”
Minister Motsoaledi does not say which ports of entry, such as Beitbridge or Lebombo, will be manned by border guards. He specifies three “performance areas”.
They are “general border management activities and security services to ensure effective and efficient border management”; Controlling the movement of goods and people in specific ports and segments; and “Entrance/Exit” control at ports of entry and in the “Border Law Enforcement Area”. This is understood to be a 10 km area around a port of entry, but not specified in the answer.