Home Affairs vows to speed up Border Management Authority

South Africa’s Border Management Authority (BMA) will start functioning by at least September this year, home affairs director general Tommy Makhode told parliament’s select committee on security and justice on Wednesday.  

The BMA was proclaimed by President Cyril Ramaphosa in July 2020 to fulfil the country’s need for “integrated and coordinated border management in accordance with the Constitution, international and domestic law…”.

It is likely to cost the government upwards of R4-billion to get the BMA going, which will be overseen by the home affairs department. 

The authority is still in need of a commissioner, a deputy commissioner, border guard officers, commissioned officers and support staff. 

Makhode told the committee that the “process of employing a commissioner and deputy commissioner for the BMA  is underway”. The due date for the “crucial appointments” was 30 June, he said. 

According to the Border Management Authority Act, the commissioner will “determine and implement a uniform recruitment procedure” for the appointment of officials and appoint officers who must be members of the border guard and support staff”. The commissioner will be responsible for the filling staff posts and ensuring that border guards receive the necessary training.  

“We want to employ young graduates from the border community. Unemployed youth should benefit greatly [from] the BMA. This will strengthen the community liaison for these borders, because once those surrounding communities feel included they will ensure that those borders are well kept and uninterrupted,” said Makhode. 

According to the home affairs presentation flighted during the meeting, the BMA will be incrementally rolled out between 2021 and 2024. The department’s target for 2021/2022 is that these roll-outs take place at 11 ports of entry “by incorporating frontline immigration, port health, border facility management and agricultural functions into the BMA”. 

In the same period, the authority is to be delivered in phases along five segments of the land border enforcement area, namely South Africa/Zimbabwe, eManguzi, Skukuza, KwaZulu-Natal/eSwatini and Mpumalanga/eSwatini. 

Responding to the presentation, ANC MP Thamsanqa Dodovu questioned home affairs’ capacity to manage the authority, particularly because crucial vacancies at the department were yet to be filled. 

“If we don’t have enough people working on the frontline then our service delivery is set for failure. Security services are underfunded already. This sacrifices the base of the department and our clients and staff are not safe. There is also a litany of issues of corruption and money irregularities that the department is embroiled in,” Dodovu said.

A number of committee members agreed that until the department was able to overcome its current structural and systematic problems, it would not be ready to implement the authority. The manpower and funding associated with border control and security stood out as being of utmost concern during the meeting. 

But Makhode tried to reassure the committee, saying: “We understand that the department is continuing to shrink, however this is a process that also requires funding, and therefore we are in the process of filling all crucial vacancies. We are also continuously attempting to beef up our counter corruption unit.”

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Chris Gilili
Chris Gilili is a climate and environmental journalist at the Mail & Guardian’s environmental unit, covering socioeconomic issues and general news. Previously, he was a fellow at amaBhungane, the centre for investigative journalism.

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