Borderline and Border Post Security Assessment by Departments of Police, Defence, Home Affairs, SARS, National Treasury

This premium content has been made freely available


07 November 2011
Chairperson: Ms LS Chikunga (ANC), Mr M Motimele (ANC), Ms M Maunye (ANC), Mr T Mufamadi (ANC), Mr C Burgess (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The South African Revenue Service, Department of Home Affairs, South African Police Service, South African National Defence Force, Department of Public Works and the National Treasury each made presentations setting out their roles and functions regarding borderline and border post security, and the corresponding challenges they faced. Throughout the presentations, there was a consistent sense that the problems at the borders were too big for any one Department or Agency to conquer alone. Ultimately, there had to be a coordinated and collaborative approach in order to facilitate the smooth running of the various operations that were required at the borders. Members of the Portfolio Committees were united in their impression that the presentations raised cause for concern, and agreed that it seemed there had been little progress in securing our borderlines. The lack of integration was worrying, especially since that endeavour had been ongoing for a long time. The important meeting ended with many unresolved questions, and it was still uncertain whether there had been effective, coordinated movement. Due to the lack of detail in some of the presentations, as well as the limited time available for delegates to answer detailed questions from the Committee, a period of seven days was set as a deadline for a consolidated report from the various Departments, including written answers to questions that had gone unanswered.

Meeting report

Co-Chairperson, Ms L Chikunga (ANC), welcomed all of the committees and delegations present and acknowledged that while other departments did have a role to play in the topic under discussion, the departments represented at the meeting were the major stakeholders.

The purpose of the meeting was to allow the various portfolio committees to gain clarity in terms of roles and functions; budget and finances; resources, including human resources and material resources; accountability; timeframes for actions that must be taken; coordination between the relevant departments and agencies tasked with regulating the transport of goods and peoples across South Africa’s borders; and the roles and functions of the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) and the Border Management Agency (BMA). By the time the meeting was concluded, all parties should have paved the way to ensure that parliamentary oversight of the responsible bodies would be coordinated.

There was agreement on one topic, namely that there were similar strategies and objectives at play to protect the security of the country, and that this required coordination. It was essential for the South African government to know, at any time, who was in the country: when, why and for how long. SARS Commissioner Oupa Magashula, the leader of the delegation, would initiate the joint presentation by all and then there would be time for questions.

Introductory remarks by SARS Commissioner
Commissioner Oupa Magashula introduced the primary role players at South Africa’s border security points that were represented at the meeting. Each of the represented departments and agencies had unique roles to play, and each would brief the Committee about the work they are doing to fulfill their legislative mandates. There were major challenges involved in coordinating the six departments and providing a joint presentation document. Apologies were accordingly made regarding the late delivery of presentation on 4 November.

Mr Magashula’s introductory remarks dealt with the context of South Africa’s borders and ports of entry; challenges faced at the border, including security threats; inter-dependencies at the border; and the plan for the presentation of material at the Committee meeting that day.

A total of almost 32 million people moved into and out of SA in one financial year. The day before the meeting, SARS had met with the National Ports Authority to gain its participation. The conditions at the borders were formidable, and the temperatures reached extreme contrasts. The work of the officials tasked with border security was as wide and varied as the threats they were faced with. There were significant and pressing challenges being faced at the borders that required ongoing attention. Borderline and border post security required a collaborative and combined response by various government agencies, who were all seeking to demonstrate a coordinated response to the challenges faced.

Mr Magashula made reference to the joint presentation to illustrate various points, starting with the co-ordinated activities of the various departments. A Border Management Agency (BMA) would be established to strengthen border security, under the guidance of the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC), by 2014. The Inter-Agency Clearing Forum (IACF) was an informal structure with the primary focus of coordinating and facilitating the urgent development and implementation of an Enhanced Movement Control System (EMCS), formed ahead of the 2010 FIFA World Cup. That project had been hugely successful. A second key project given impetus by the IACF was the one-stop border post between South Africa and Mozambique.

Mr Magashula outlined the current status of border post implementation and set out the challenges and progress made by the selected departments in increasing border post and border line security. The Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Directors-General cluster had submitted a proposal to Cabinet concerning the formalisation of the IACF, but this had not as yet been considered. The preparations for the day’s presentation between the departments had been coordinated within the IACF.

Department of Home Affairs (DHA) presentation
Mr Mkuseli Apleni, DHA Director-General, set out the role of the Department of Home Affairs and what they did at the borders. He discussed historical immigration practices and the current paradigm shift in the management of immigration, differentiating between three different eras. For the era ‘Beyond 2010’, the vision required a determination of whether the DHA functions should be militarised or not.

Mr Apleni went through some “high-level problem statements”, which were characterised by an overall lack of management of immigration. He used a fictional character, “Max”, to set out a scenario in which an illegal immigrant applied for asylum, and eventually ended up as a South African citizen, noting that in some cases, people purposefully had children so that they could qualify to stay in the country. South Africa’s ‘liberal, laissez-faire policy’, invariably led to these problems. Businesses started up by foreign nationals were not being registered, and in some cases, people did not even provide their correct addresses to the Department. Now, with attempts to change these policies, there was the danger of a perception that the Department was being unnecessarily harsh.

Immigration and identity were at the heart of any national security system, and the two common objectives were state security and public safety. Mr Apleni referred to a chart to illustrate the concept of an integrated approach to the management of immigration. One specific challenge was that of undocumented immigrant communities clustered around the borders. Some people came into South Africa twice a year – once to collect money for grants and once to receive informal housing benefits. If someone wanted to change their status in South Africa, they should return to their country of origin first in order to do so.

South African Revenue Service (SARS) presentation
Mr Magashula began by outlining the role of customs and its operational environment. It took between 15 minutes and 5 hours to search a single truck coming across the border. He set out the challenges faced, as well as what SARS had delivered to date and what it would deliver going forward. One of the main objectives was the movement to a unitary system. Among the most important responses would be a more robust inspection process at the borders.

Mr Magashula listed some examples of impact by SARS over the course of the last financial year. Among these were the appointment of new customs officials, deployed in 43 border posts, in addition to newly trained personnel who performed inspections and audits. To help battle corruption, SARS had adopted a zero-tolerance policy. SARS was also working with the Tobacco Institute of SA and the local tobacco industry to raise awareness about the dangers of illicit tobacco products and the harm they posed to South Africa’s local economy.

In conclusion, SARS was cognisant of the critical role of trade for the economic growth of the country and of the harm illegal goods posed. In working together with colleagues in government, business and labour, SARS was moving closer to its objectives of facilitating legitimate trade, protecting borders, and collecting due revenue.

South African Police Service (SAPS) presentation
Lieutenant-General Elias Mawela gave a brief history, outlining SAPS border policing objectives and the categories of border environments which necessitated the responsibility of local SAPS stations. Specialised SAPS operations at sea included the protection of vessels with vulnerable and valuable cargo, some of which were military vessels from other countries.

In terms of borderline operations, SAPS operations had been scaled down, with the result that there were minimum deployment numbers remaining on the borders. On the RSA/Lesotho border, 25 SAPS members held borderline duties. A number of bases had been handed over to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), and there were six other bases pending official handing over. The Maluti base was divided into two parts – one for SANDF and one for SAPS. Lt-Gen Mawela described the handing over process, as well as the SAPS operational strategy, deployment strategy, challenges, and collaboration with Customs and DHA Immigration Branch, which was ongoing.

South African National Defence Force (SANDF) presentation
Major-General Ifraam Pako, Deputy Chief of Joint Operations, SANDF, reviewed the SANDF mandate and set out the challenges facing it. While SANDF used to be based at the borders, it left on the instructions of government. A great deal of infrastructure still needed to be developed, but no additional funding would be provided in 2012, resulting in a shortfall of resources. The approach to address these challenges was explained with reference to the strategic concept, phased approach and current actions in progress. Land border priorities were explained, with specific reference to border safeguarding at OP Corona. The areas within which companies have already been deployed were identified. OP Corona successes and achievements for the period 1 April – 31 October 2011 were listed. The current situation regarding operations for 2012-2013 was set out. For each troop who was deployed, there had to be three additional troops behind to provide support. In addition, deployments should not be longer than six months at a time.

Department of Public Works (DPW) presentation
Acting Deputy Director-General Peter Chiapasko, began with DPW’s achievements to date and the challenges they faced. Designed solutions at border posts were very complex. There were huge volumes of border traffic – both vehicle and pedestrian – and difficult site topography. There were 33 projects currently in the planning phase, a number of which would improve the situation regarding accommodation at land ports of entry. There had been challenges concerning the performance of contractors and consultants, and the need to terminate them had led to delays. In future there would be stronger penalties for non-performing contractual parties.

National Treasury presentation
Mr George Tembo, Director: Governance and Administration, spoke about some of the things the National Treasury has done thus far and closed with the challenges faced.

Mr Magashula closed the cumulative presentation session by stating that it was clear from the information shared that there was a need to balance trade and security priorities.

Mr G Schneeman (ANC) asked why it was the first time that he was hearing about the challenges SAPS was facing with regard to border security, as he had not encountered these issues in their annual and other reports. He asked SAPS why the challenges relating to the patrol of our coasts were being experienced, and what impact the cancelled sale of patrol boats had on their ability to effectively patrol the coastline.

A Member wanted to know the extent to which the handing over of bases by SAPS to SANDF were aligned to budget ramifications. She asked the Department of Public Works whether the backlog of accommodation had ever been allocated to their expenditure. If it was, she asked what the money was used for. If it was not, she wondered why not. She asked National Treasury whether they had monitored the movement of money allocated for this purpose. She also wanted to understand what SAPS meant when they said that their budget was “shared for all this” as this was not specific enough.

Mr D Maynier (DA) asked why the Border Management Agency had not been set up for two years after President Zuma undertook to do so in his 2009 State of the Nation Address. He asked SAPS, with reference to the powerpoint presentation, whether it was correct that there was currently one member of SAPS per 68 km of border at one borderline and one member of SAPS per 32 km at another. With reference to the SANDF, he said that in 1994, there were 28 deployed companies, which amounted to 4 200 troops, and that today there were only 1 050. He asked whether it was correct that there were so many fewer soldiers on the borders today than in 1994, and that the borders were now in fact less secure than before.

An ANC member asked the Department of Home Affairs if it had managed to come up with a plan to suggest to government that would effectively engage with the issue of xenophobia. She asked SAPS what exactly they were doing to address the challenges they had raised in their presentation. She asked SANDF to elaborate about the planned erection of the fence.

A Member from the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs asked SAPS when they were going to have the equipment they needed to scan goods at the border posts. It was a critical need. She asked, more generally, what the state of readiness for COP-17 was.

Another Member of Parliament asked SANDF for clarity regarding the situation with accommodation at the borders. The number of illegal people and goods entering the country was cause for concern, and he wanted to know from SARS whether the problem was escalating or decreasing.

Mr A Maziya (ANC) asked the Department of Home Affairs, with regard to those citizens who were living elsewhere and who were crossing the borders into South Africa to get grants, pensions, etc, whether they had been eligible to be citizens before 1996 or not. He asked SAPS how the situation arose whereby they were now sharing borderline responsibilities with SANDF, even in the same vicinity. He asked whether that came about as the result of an independent agreement. He asked why, in cases when one Department left, the new Department that stepped in had to start afresh, as the borderlines had become completely unbearable.

Ms P Mocumi (ANC) wanted to know where exactly the airports and airstrips, as identified in the presentation, were located. She asked what the Department of Home Affairs wanted to do to deal with the foreign nationals who came over the border to receive benefits.

A MP added to his earlier query by asking whether South Africa’s airport security measures could compete internationally.

Mr D George (DA) asked the Department of Home Affairs whether the numbers on the slides reflecting the numbers of immigrants included dependants and children. If not, it would mean that nearly 50% of adult immigrants were not involved in economic activity, and he wanted to know how they were surviving if this was the case. He asked if immigration was good for South Africa’s economy, and mentioned that economic history showed that it was good for an economy to have goods and peoples moving around as freely as possible. He felt there was not much detail contained in the presentation about the issues relating to the Mozambique border post.

A COPE Member said that the State Security Agency could be doing more, especially with regard to corruption, human trafficking and illegal immigration. He understood that anti-corruption measures were needed because corruption was getting out of hand, but asked what these “measures” involved. He asked whether there was a plan regarding the airstrips and whether there were police patrols at the airstrips at night. He asked what exactly was needed in relation to the stated budget constraints, and emphasised the importance of clear communication about what is needed in order to achieve real results.

Rev K Meshoe (ACDP) stated that the Portfolio Committees needed a more detailed assessment of what the actual situation is and what exactly is needed. He asked SARS what processes were followed when a vehicle was searched, and what factors informed the decision which vehicle to search. He asked why the scanners were not being used. He asked the Department of Home Affairs how airlines identified potential illegal immigrants, and whether they were cooperating with the Department.

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) stated that all of the presentations painted a disturbing picture of the current state of border control and that overall, there was insufficient control of the borders. He wanted to know what steps were being taken to address this situation, and joked that in giving answers, each Department would probably answer that they did not have money. He asked what exactly the problem was. He understood that the Department of Public Works were only now looking at putting penalty clauses in their contracts with contractors and stated that those should have been in place long ago. He knew there was not enough time to answer all of the members’ questions that day, but stated that written responses must be given to all of the Committee members or there would be no progress.

A MP asked the SANDF what kinds of weapons had been recovered at the borders. He said that the question of non-compliance on the part of contractors had been in the public domain for a long time, and asked what the Department of Public Works was doing about it.

Mr A Gaum (ANC) said that the presentations were more a cause for concern than a cause for comfort, and that it seemed that there had been little progress in securing our borderlines. He asked whether the necessary funding was being made available but yet not being put to good use. He noted with grave concern that the systems put in place by the various role players did not appear to have been integrated, and that the systems were still not integrated “at this late stage”. He asked what the timeframes were in this regard. Stating that there was a lack of effective patrols along the maritime borderline was a “euphemism in the extreme”, since our maritime borderline was hardly patrolled at all. He asked what exactly the situation at our maritime borderlines was.

Ms H Mgabedeli (ANC) said that the time for boardroom politics was over, and that the presentations had given the Committees a starting point. The Committees needed to make use of its oversight functions to help address the reality of the challenges that were raised that day.

Mr M Mnqasela (DA) stated that the Committee needed to make recommendations to the SADC Parliamentary Forum, in order to request debate regarding the integration of our Southern African economies. He said there was a need to look at exactly why people were moving to South Africa and questioned the extent to which the Committee and relevant Departments were looking at the challenges and suggesting solutions. He cautioned the Department of Home Affairs about using ‘Max’ as an example, and stated that not every immigrant was in fact here illegally. He said that if the permitting system was not fully functional, it made sense that there would be people who were not in the country legally. The issue of the Border Management Agency was very important.

Mr M Mncwago (IFP) asked what exactly happened during the process of apprehending illegal foreigners and where they went once they had been so apprehended. Mere figures as to the number of illegal immigrants who were apprehended were insufficient.

A MP wanted to know, if it was necessary to raise the security of our borders, on a scale from 1-5, where we would stand. He said that if we did not enhance security in this respect, the country would be bordering on a serious security crisis. He said that the issue of baggage pilferage at airports had not been clearly set out, and wanted to know whether there had been a decline or an increase compared with previous time periods. He reminded the Department of Public Works that there were challenges relating to climate change that needed to be dealt with. He told the Department of Home Affairs that it was their responsibility to make sure that every individual in this country was here legally. He reiterated the sentiment raised by Mr Magashula that if a person was not in South Africa legally, that person should leave, sort themselves out from their country of origin, and only then return.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) asked which Ministry paid for the repairs to the border posts that were dilapidated under SAPS tenure. The report on border security from three years ago showed border security to be woefully inadequate, but there had been no reference to that report during the presentations. She said that farmers and farm workers in the border areas were particularly at threat. She wanted to know whether there was a mechanism to evaluate whether there had been any improvement or not, and asked what mechanisms had been put into place to deal with corruption at the border posts. In the past, goods on trains had not been searched at all. She criticised the practice, evident in some of the presentations, of citing current figures without making comparison to previous years. The issue of illegal cigarettes was very worrying, especially considering the potential link to terrorism.

Co-Chairperson Mr C Burgess (ANC) suggested that the delegates from the different Departments answer what they were able to during the brief period remaining for discussion, and give answers for the remaining questions in writing. Each Department was then given five minutes to attend to the questions that were addressed to them.

A SARS delegate stated that when the delegates came to the meeting, they realised that they might have to return. He said that the Border Management Agency should be ready by 2014, but there was not a single department that would be able to address this issue without first consulting with the other affected departments. All stakeholders were aware of the challenges, and were working together to address them. Unfortunately, the State Security Agency was not present because of its responsibilities at another Portfolio Committee meeting. The Risk Assessment Report that was referred to in questions had been compiled by that Department, but they were not present to address it. The Frontier Parks were being facilitated in order to protect African biodiversity, and erecting a fence in that area would have an environmental impact. The bureaucrats in the various departments needed direction from their principals from a policy point of view.

Mr Maynier raised a “point of order”, stating that the State Security Agency was supposed to make a presentation to the Committee regarding the Risk Assessment Report. He wanted to know who had prevented them from presenting that day.

Co-Chairperson Burgess replied that that was not a point of order, and that the Committee would find out why the State Security Agency was not in attendance.

A delegate from the Department of Home Affairs said that the Department was aware of the issues, but that there was a need to review the process by which changes were being made, and the impression should not be given that South Africa was now a “closed country”. South Africa was a signatory to various international conventions, and those had to be adhered to in a way that would benefit the citizens of the country. South Africa was giving duel citizenship to people from countries, such as Lesotho, which did not themselves grant duel citizenship to South Africans. In response to what the Department was doing to combat challenges, that very day, the Minister was launching a verification process for fingerprints. As the affected Departments, they really wanted to make the envisaged integrated system a reality.

A SAPS delegate said before property was passed over to the Department of Public Works, there was a policy that the Department who is leaving expected to return the property in the condition in which it was received. The Department would be able to provide more exact information about airstrips to the Committees.

An ANC Member remarked that not all of the questions were being addressed satisfactorily, to which Co-Chairperson Burgess reiterated that any question that was not satisfactorily answered during the session would have to be duly answered in writing.

The SAPS delegate said that they had come to realise that the job was too big for them, and that they needed the assistance of the Department of Defence. With regard to budget, when SAPS takes responsibility for the Department of Defence’s functions, that affected their budget, in the same way as when the Department of Defence takes over SAPS’ functions, their budget is accordingly reallocated.

A Department of Defence delegate stated that border operations had to be guided by intelligence. He acknowledged that SANDF had the responsibility of patrolling the borders. The deployment of South African ships in the sea off Mozambique was helping to address smuggling at sea. There was, however, still a need to synchronise patrols. Currently, seven companies were deployed at the borders. It was important to remember that SANDF held other responsibilities, beyond our borders, including peacekeeping exercises elsewhere on the Continent.

A delegate from SANDF added that the biggest challenge was that we were not at war, but there was still the need to strike an appropriate balance between peacekeeping operations and times of peace. The budget involved in SANDF operations was necessarily large, but there was the capacity to use it wisely.

Mr Magashula said that after 9/11 the USA approached every country to demand that every import to the US be scanned. This was impossible to do anywhere and would never happen. There was a need for a valuation database. At present, SARS inspected about 1.5% of all goods that entered the country, as this was all that they had capacity for. In terms of tobacco imports, SARS was struggling to define what the exact compliance gap was. The BMA was meant to come into force by 2014. There would still be a joint committee meeting to discuss the issue of the one-stop border post.

A Department of Public Works delegate said that a more comprehensive report would be provided soon. The Department had 102 BCOCC projects planned for 2011 alone in relation to border posts. Another DWA delegate said that it was that Department’s policy to deal decisively with problematic contractors, and that if a contractor was under-performing or not providing in terms of the contract, they were put into mora for a period of 10 days. If there was no improvement, the contract would be reviewed, and penalties would accordingly be imposed.

A National Treasury delegate noted the allocation of funds for border management activities and stated that there was indeed money allocated for border control purposes. He asked that if additional money was needed, how it could be provided and stated that it was necessary to consider matters of efficiency.

Co-Chairperson Burgess proposed a period of seven days to set as a deadline for the outstanding consolidated report from the various parties who had presented.

Mr Magashula responded that there was a need to check with Cabinet first, as planning for COP-17 posed some threats to time availability.

Co-Chairperson Burgess reiterated the need to receive, in writing, a review of what the actual, detailed position was. If the position as set out in the additional presentation was still unsatisfactory, the Committee would have to make a decision in this regard.

Co-Chairperson Chikunga thanked all participants for their interaction and affirmed that it had been an important meeting. There were still many unresolved questions, however, and it was uncertain whether there had been effective, coordinated movement, which was somewhat worrying.

Co-Chairperson M Motimele (ANC) added that the Departments and agencies who presented at the meeting seemed well aware of the challenges they faced.

The meeting was adjourned.


  • We don't have attendance info for this committee meeting

Download as PDF

You can download this page as a PDF using your browser's print functionality. Click on the "Print" button below and select the "PDF" option under destinations/printers.

See detailed instructions for your browser here.

Share this page: