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By Eric Naki

Political Editor

SA takes step a toward secure borders with BMA launch

South Africa's formal launch of the Border Management Authority (BMA) signals a potential solution to its longstanding border control crisis and migration chaos.

The formal launch of the Border Management Authority (BMA) yesterday has raised hopes that the country is finally on the way to resolving its border control crisis and even its migration chaos.

South Africa has become notorious for its porous borders where illegal immigrants and illegal goods pass through due to slack control and corruption at the border.

The chaos began in 1994, when the democratically elected government took over as the apartheid regime had strict and well-organised control of immigration and border movement.

President Cyril Ramaphosa, while launching the BMA in Limpopo yesterday, conceded the management of the country’s borders was marred by power fragmentation, responsibility and accountability, with different departments and law enforcement agencies all working according to their different mandates with no coordination.

Borders vulnerable

This rendered the country’s borders vulnerable, but the establishment of the BMA was aimed at addressing such problems.

Ramaphosa was supported by his Zimbabwean counterpart Emmerson Mnangagwa, Cabinet ministers and state officials from national and the Limpopo government, to witness the official launch and the use of the new technology at the port.

He told the gathering at the Musina showgrounds in Limpopo that “a more secure border is important for curbing illegal migration, human smuggling and trafficking. It will help in combating cross-border crime.”

He said the increase in the number of undocumented foreign nationals entering the country had exacerbated many of the country’s social and economic problems.

“The movement of persons and goods at ports of entry has often not been as efficient as it should be, resulting in unnecessary delays and increased costs for individuals and companies,” he said.

ALSO READ: Ramaphosa: illegal immigration ‘exacerbated many of SA’s social and economic problems’

“This, in turn, is harming our economy. Deficiencies in border management have also enabled corruption and organised and cross-border crime to thrive.

“The Border Management Authority will provide a sustainable solution to the structural challenges of border security, control and coordination.

It will be a new model of integration of functions, roles and responsibilities in the broader law enforcement environment.”

Recently, Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, who championed the establishment of the BMA and border guards, revealed that the South Africa side of the border looked “like a shack”, while facilities on the other side “looked like Sandton”, referring to their modern infrastructure.

Preventing illegal import and exit

Motsoaledi said he envisaged great improvement in all the more than 70 ports of entry.

Ramaphosa said when the country’s ports of entry were well-protected and well-managed, it would be possible to prevent the illegal import and exit of goods and facilitate lawful trade on a greater scale more efficiently.

“This is becoming increasingly important as we work with other countries in our region and elsewhere on the continent to increase intra-African trade,” Ramaphosa said.

Foreign nationals who sought refuge or wished to live and work in South Africa were subject to immigration laws and regulations, he said.

ALSO READ: SA to overhaul 6 key border entry points with cutting-edge tech

The BMA was also tasked to ensure that the country’s immigration laws and regulations were upheld and enforced.