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By Marizka Coetzer

Journalist


Promises of tighter security at borders, 12-month timeline for impact

The BMA Commissioner says it will take about a year to see improved border security in South Africa, following new integrated approaches.


It would take about 12 months before South Africa sees a difference in border security, according to Border Management Authority (BMA) commissioner Dr Mike Masiapato.

“The BMA intercepted 139 stolen vehicles at borders and deported 35 000 individuals who tried to enter the country illegally from July last year,” he said.

“We also denied entry to 95 000 individuals who were declared undesirable.”

This comes after President Cyril Ramaphosa enacted the Border Management Authority Act into law, which gave rights to the appointment of commissioners in July 2020.

He was expected to officially launch the BMA after it started operating in July last year.

Masiapato said South Africa initially used a multi-agency approach to border management, consisting of several government departments, including home affairs, health, forestry, fisheries and the environment, and agriculture, land reform and rural Development, along with the SA Revenue Service (Sars), SA Police Service (Saps) and SA National Defence Force (SANDF).

“That approach has been implemented for 29 years, but we were able to agree that it brought along many challenges, including the fragmentation of border management activities and facilitated corruption,” said Masiapato.

“That’s why we had to move away from a multi-agency approach into adopting an integrated border management mechanism through which we needed a centre commandment control.”

Masiapato said the BMA took over as a public entity responsible for the border management in April.

“In the past financial year, we had to start moving the functions of border management on the ground from those departments into the BMA via the department of home affairs.

“We also had the capacity and the authority to launch the first 200 border guards in July last year,” he said.

Criminologist Dr Witness Maluleka said the borders have been branded as porous for many years without effective strategies for the crime situations.

“Various serious crimes happened at our borders. This is becoming a serious and growing menace across South Africa and neighbouring countries. Negatively, corruption in our ports of entry is worsening this situation.”

Maluleka said cross-border crimes were becoming well organised, with the criminal gangs trying to exploit legitimate activities.

“They are reaping illegitimate profit, while colluding with unethical officials stationed at our borders, using complex and sophisticated methods of operation,” he said.

Maluleka said he hoped the new BMA would introduce new lasting strategies to better the status of the borders. Economist Dawie Roodt said the impact of immigrants was more positive than negative.

“It didn’t drain the economy, even if they were here illegally,” he said.

“People say that foreign nationals come to steal our jobs, but that’s untrue. The type of immigrants that come here are risktakers and were willing to cross rivers to get here. They were more entrepreneurial by nature.”

Roodt said it was some of the better people who wanted a change that came here.

“Research has shown the unemployment under immigrants was lower than our locals.

“Every immigrant who comes here also creates jobs because he has to eat here, buy clothes and live here,” he said.

Roodt said the negative impact from immigrants was the impact they had on SA’s infrastructure such as hospitals in the short term.

Economist Anja Smith said immigration wasn’t a bad thing.

“It is often the most talented and industrious people who migrate. It depends on who is in the country illegally,” she said.

Smith said it was the government’s responsibility to protect borders and ensure an efficient migration system.