The main purpose of the meeting was to receive a briefing from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) on its border management strategy and the vision to establish a Border Management Agency to assume control of ports of entry and borderline functions. This was preceded, however, by the adoption by the Committee of the final mandates of the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill.
Representatives from the DHA gave the Committee an insight into South Africa’s three largest border posts – Lebombo, Beit Bridge and Maseru Bridge. The number of people and vehicles passing through these three border posts had been steadily increasing over the past few years. Some of the biggest challenges facing all three of these border posts included a lack of operational space, staff engaging in corruption, smuggling and human trafficking. A lack of adequate and updated infrastructure was also a major problem.
Border management in South Africa was comprised of the following specific functions: immigration control; customs control; border safeguarding and surveillance; inspection of plants and plant products; border policing; inspection of animals, fish, animal products and foodstuff; and human health inspection. The DHA often did not have the capacity to engage in border management effectively because of a lack of resources.
The DHA presented a briefing on the Border Management Agency (BMA). The Committee was told that key assumptions in the establishment of the BMA included that the BMA would be responsible for a basket of control functions. The BMA was not going to take on the role of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF), which must be to protect the country against military aggression. The DHA wanted the SANDF to stop doing border control -- for example, stopping someone trying to jump the border -- as it was trying to separate border protection from border control. A second important point about the BMA was that it was not going to take over policy decisions.
When considering what kind of institution the BMA would be, there were five options: an executive authority; a department; a government component; a national public entity; or a government business enterprise. After doing a lot of research and consultation, the DHA had ended up with two options -- that the BMA would either be a government component or a national public entity, and its preference was a national public entity. The vision of the BMA was to balance the facilitation of legitimate travel functions while simultaneously addressing security risks. Therefore the BMA was not only concerned with the movement of people. The BMA would be established as a single body, so that when one came to a point of entry, there must be a single body there. The BMA would be responsible to a single Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, and would be responsible for all 72 points of entry into South Africa, as well as the entire border line.
Many members were concerned whether enough resources would be available for the effective implementation of the BMA. An additional worry was that current corrupt staff would be employed by the BMA. They were also concerned that pedestrians seemed to just walk across border posts without being processed or stopped by anyone in authority.
Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill
The Chairperson started the meeting by apologizing to Members, as the Committee was supposed to have finalised the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill (B6B – 2014) in the previous meeting. She wanted to start with the third item on the agenda, which was the adoption of the final mandates on the Bill.
Members from each of the provinces were asked how the province had voted on the Bill. All of the provinces voted in favour of the Bill, and all amendments on the Bill.
The Chairperson quickly went through the report that the Committee was adopting. The report read that the Department of Health (DoH) had briefed the Committee on Bill B6B of 2014 on 13 August 2015. The Select Committee on Social Services, having deliberated on and considered the subject of the Medicines and Related Substances Amendment Bill, had decided to give the report that it has agreed to the Bill. The report was being put forth and the Chairperson wanted to make sure that all Members were satisfied with it.
Ms T Mpambo-Sibhukwane (DA, Western Cape) said that the Western Cape supported the report.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that KwaZulu-Natal also accepted the report.
The Chairperson announced that the Bill had been finalized, and thanked Members for their participation at the provincial level. She thanked representatives from the Department of Health (DoH), and excused them from the meeting..
Border Management Strategy: DHA briefing
The Chairperson said that border management was a very important and critical subject, and that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) often did not have the capacity to do this effectively. She had hoped that representatives from the four major border line areas would have been at the meeting, as issues related to South Africa’s borders would be in the media. Beit Bridge was one of the border posts that experienced many problems. However, this was not to say that there were no challenges at other border posts. The Committee was glad to be hearing a presentation from the DHA to learn what plans it had in place to deal with the issues. Unfortunately, other departments were not involved, because addressing the issues of the border posts required measured action from other departments as well. She asked the DHA to take the Committee through the presentation that it had prepared, and said that the Committee would then engage with them on the presentation.
Mr Elroy Africa, National Project Manager: Border Management Agency (BMA), said that in addition to the documents that the Committee had received from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), and the presentation on the BMA, he thought that the Committee might want to have more detail on some specific examples of border management. For this reason, not only was the DHA giving a presentation that detailed border management at the national level, but representatives from the DHA would also give the Committee presentations on three of South Africa’s busiest ports, to share with the Committee some of the challenges that they faced. Representatives from the DHA therefore also gave individual presentations on Beit Bridge, Maseru Bridge and Lebombo ports. These individual presentations were given first.
Lebombo border post
The number of people and vehicles passing through the Lebombo border post had been increasing. Last year it had cleared five million people. Challenges that the DHA faced in the border environment included human trafficking, vehicle smuggling and drug smuggling. The DHA had to have a strategy to deal with these issues head on. Informal traders in and around the border environment also presented a challenge. The DHA needed to work together with the local municipality on this challenge, because in 2003 the DHA had tried to remove those illegal hawkers but they had just returned. Because the border post closed at midnight, it became uncontrollable during those hours between midnight and when it was reopened in the morning. The border post had been open for 24 hours in the past, but this had been stopped in 2002 because of the challenges that it had presented. Now it was only cargo trains that could pass the border over 24 hours. Another challenge was the outdated staffing model which needed to be reviewed.
The biggest challenge currently affecting the border environment was corruption. The DHA needed integrated systems to ensure that it was able to deal with this issue. With the border being closed at night, this presented an opportunity for smugglers, who would wait for the border post to close and then would cross over, knowing that they could not all be caught at once. For that reason, the DHA believed that it was long overview that this border post should be open for 24 hours. There had also been an outcry from the public, with people asking the DHA to open another border post.
The border post would develop a plan on how to deal with issues at the border. The DHA also has committees at the border, to discuss issues affecting border posts. R11 billion worth of contraband had been confiscated. However, there were many challenges. For example, a fully loaded car may need to be completely unpacked to be searched, which caused delays.
The port manager said Maseru Bridge border post was located in the Free State and like Lebombo, it also faced challenges. There had been growth in the number of people moving through the border, but statistics showed that the number of departures at the border post was always lower than the number of arrivals. Most of those people passing through the border post were leaving their own country and not going back. If they did go back, it was only to bring some more people back to South Africa with them.
At Maseru Bridge, one of the biggest challenges was infrastructure, as there was only one lane into the port and one lane out. This was not enough, especially during peak hours. Large numbers of school children from Lesotho attending school in South Africa traveled in and out every day for school. There was also criminal activity happening, in which runners standing outside the border post facilitated criminal activities. Low river levels also made it very easy to cross the river anywhere to get into Lesotho.
There was a big discrepancy in the number of staff that Lebombo border post employed, compared to Maseru Bridge. Lebombo had more staff stationed in all of the border post organisations than Maseru Bridge had, even though Maseru Bridge was open for 24 hours, while Lebombo was not. That impacted directly on its ability to operate efficiently. The lack of resources was a big challenge, especially during peak hours. Even though Maseru Bridge had 30 service points, it could not man them all as it had limited staff.
However, not everything was gloomy, and there were some positive aspects to the Maseru Bridge border post. For example, it had access to police monitoring of what was happening around the border post. However, it did need assistance to deal with the illegal movement of goods over the border in transport vehicles like trucks. To do this, it needed something like a scanner. The DHA had also recommended an integrated approach to deal with illegal immigrants and associated issues. The infrastructure surrounding the border posts and along the borderline needed to be changed because people who could not enter South Africa legally, did so by going through the river, particularly when the water level was low. In terms of staff, the DHA really needed to evaluate the current staffing models. Rather than deciding how many staff were needed specifically for Maseru Bridge, staff numbers should be standardised, so that all border posts the size of Maseru Bridge should have a particular number of staff. There should also be ongoing standardisation of processes, which was a serious challenge, especially when it came to customs. Another problem was that border posts were closed on public holidays, so a border may be closed on the side of one country, but open on the side of the other. People particularly complain about being stuck at a border post for more than a day because of this.
Maseru Bridge had quite a number of successes. It had been able to conduct maintenance of the current infrastructure. It had also had increased successes against criminal activities by setting up road blocks a few kilometers outside of the border post, so that those who managed to go through the post illegally could still be picked up at the road block.
A representative from the DHA gave the presentation on Beit Bridge. Beit Bridge formed a boundary between South Africa and Zimbabwe, and was the only official border crossing between South Africa and Zimbabwe. There were other ones, but they were not official border posts. It was situated at a distance of 12kms from Musina town, and the organisations found there included the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the South African Police Service (SAPS), the DHA, and port health entities.
A number of challenges were faced at the Beit Bridge border post. There were very high volumes of both people and vehicles coming through the post, and the current infrastructure was no longer adequate to deal with them. When there were increases in human resources, the DHA sometimes forgot to find them extra staff accommodation. Management could not be updated on what was happening in and around the border post because of the outdated communication infrastructure at the port.
One of the values that formed part of the Beit Bridge’s moral compass was integrity. Beit Bridge held integrity in high regard. No system was foolproof, and where systems were lacking or found wanting, the value of integrity stepoed in to close the loopholes and hopefully prevented staff from engaging in corruption.
One of the biggest challenges that the Beit Bridge border post currently faced was a lack of operational space. This was needed, particularly to process trucks or busses, as their ability to carry goods over the border illegally was higher than the risk for other vehicles, because of their capacity to carry goods. More parking space was also needed. Beit Bridge was in a very harsh environment, where temperatures could reach 40 degrees, and there was therefore a need for structures that could provide shade. As the human resources increased, the DHA also needed to have more housing that could accommodate them. A towing facility was also needed, because if a truck or bus broke down, it sometimes blocked parts of the border post and prevented other vehicles from going through until it was moved. Drinking water was being drawn straight from the Limpopo River without being processed, and was potable water. The lack of an updated communication system was a problem. Medical facilities were also needed at the border post as Musina, which was the nearest town, was 12 kms away. Facilities were needed in the port itself to prevent tragedies. For example, a traveler had been diagnosed with malaria, and because of a lack of medical facilities on the premises, the traveler had not been able to receive treatment in time and had passed away. Quarantine facilities for goods that had to be checked by customs were also needed but currently there was no space for them. Importantly, the border post desperately needed a cargo scanner.
The DHA had recommended total redevelopment of the port and a separation of arrivals and departures. To deal with “ghost” exports and similar issues it suggested implementing risk-based processes. Pause areas for officers were also needed for them to recover from the heat during breaks. Sufficient residential accommodation was also a necessity, as what sometimes happened was that officers rented houses that they later found out belonged to smugglers. The lack of accommodation then put them in a difficult situation, because they knew that they should report the smuggler, but if they did so they would not be able to continue renting that house and would have no alternative accommodation. While integrity was a core value of the port, this situation made it difficult for officers to act with integrity and more accommodation would therefore help to create a less fertile ground for the corruption of officers. Recovery vehicles that had the capability to move cargo trucks that had broken down within the border environment were also needed, as these broken down vehicles would often completely block parts of the border post, preventing other vehicles from passing until a recovery vehicle could be arranged to move it. It was necessary to provide drinking water and shade, because it was very hot, and there were long demarcated pathways with no shade. An intercom facility was needed, and so was a quarantine facility, a cold storage facility and medical facilities. The border post also needed long-lasting measures to deal with baboons, as they could be very dangerous. Recreational and gym facilities were also needed for officials on their days off.
However, there had been a number of successes at Beit Bridge. Recently, 2 kgs of heroin had been found that people had been trying to smuggle across the border, and stolen vehicles had also been recovered. Beit Bridge had also successfully launched the Amani Two exercise. Diamonds worth R2 million had been recovered. People no longer complained about having to spend two days waiting in the queue at Beit Bridge.
In the peak festive season, more resources were sent to Beit Bridge to deal with the increase in people and vehicles trying to cross the border, so operations run effectively and the staff can process people and vehicles efficiently, as the extra resources allow for streamlined processes. During this time, Beit Bridge can process a bus in 20 minutes or less. The extra resources also help in preventing contraband from exiting Beit Bridge’s points of entry.
In terms of lessons learned from the Beit Bridge border post, the DHA has learned that there needs to be a sharing of information amongst various government departments. Accounting in silos was a challenge, as was a lack of national security measures. A body was needed that would act in a coordinated way to deal with these three issues.
Border Management Agency
Mr Africa detailed how the DHA assessed problems of border management from a national perspective. Comparing arrival to departure figures, in all instances there were more arrivals happening than departures at South Africa’s border posts.
Border posts contributed about 16% of the government's revenue. Durban port collected the biggest amount of revenue, because of the sheer volume of cargo containers that passed through the Durban port. O R Thambo International Airport collected the second largest amount, because the exit value of goods was highest there.
The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) had the largest number of patrol staff placed along the borderline. It had 13 companies, with 175 soldiers each, and in total about 2 275 soldiers stationed along the borderline. However, these were not enough to secure the current border line. The SANDF had recently scaled up to 22 companies for them to be able to make an impact, and Treasury was trying to provide funding for that. However, the DHA did not have the necessary resources to deal with vulnerabilities. The Kruger National Park was of strategic importance because the rhino poaching there was directly linked to the challenges of cross-border criminal activities. In the past, poachers would come from outside of South Africa and into the Kruger National Park, but now they had operations in South Africa, in the townships, and this issue was becoming very complex. In June, the DHA had launched Operation Pyramid.
Protecting the country from threats crossing the border also included health risks, such as foot and mouth disease. There was also the issue of cross-border communities. To deal with these, informal border crossing pilot projects had been implemented. South Africa had seven cross-border rail crossings, and goods trains were often used for things other than the legitimate transport of goods. All of those issues pertained to the land border environment.
With regard to the air border environment, South Africa was directly responsible for the air space immediately above the country. Due to international conventions, it also carried some responsibility for securing an air space right down to the South Pole. However, its level of responsibility for that air space was not as intensive as it was for the air space directly above the country.
With regard to the air border environment, the air force had some responsibility for air border security. However, the DHA had tried to ask itself a number of questions, such as: ‘How many air fields do we have in South Africa?’; ‘How much capability does the South African Police Service (SAPS) have in assisting the DHA in securing the air border environment,’ and so on. It had also considered the number of small air fields and the problems that small aircraft and airports might pose. For example, recently a small aircraft was taken into custody in Zambia. It was caught trying to fly across the border illegally and smuggle impala. Small aircraft and small airports were therefore an issue that the DHA needed to look at fairly carefully.
South Africa had some capability as a state to engage in static (permanent) air space surveillance, and to monitor the air space to the northern parts of the country. However, large parts of our air space were vulnerable, and people in the aviation sector know this, and know that it creates loopholes for them to engage in illegal activities. This came back to the issue of the lack of resources.
All of the previous issues concerned either land or air. Regarding maritime issues, South Africa was responsible for three parts of the sea. The first was its territorial waters, which extended to about 12 nautical miles, or 20 kms, from the coast. That zone was considered to be sovereign territory, so all of the laws of South Africa applied. The next 12 nautical miles made up the contiguous zone.
In that zone, not all of the laws of South Africa applied. The last zone was the exclusive economic zone. In this zone, South Africa had the responsibility simply to protect the country from criminal activities, but also some rights to drill for oil and protect marine life. As one passed through the three zones, the laws of South Africa diminished.
The DHA had collected statistics from various sources, such as non-governmental organisations, academics and the like, which showed that in the mid-1990s there were between 2 million and 12 million illegal foreigners in South Africa (SA). While this range was so large that it hardly seemed able to give any workable figures, even at the lower end of the continuum, this was a large number of people. In addition to this, about 100 000 people were trafficked annually, both within SA and across its borders. About 266 000 people had been repatriated from SA. The number of people found to be in the country illegally by the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) was about 16 000 a year, while about 21 000 people entered or left SA without the necessary papers.
Regarding the successes of Operation Corona, every year the SANDF caught people on the border line trying to enter or exit the country illegally. It had also confiscated 19 illegal weapons, recovered 1 435 stolen livestock and 76 stolen vehicles, arrested 34 124 criminals and confiscated contraband to the value of R81.2 million.
Some of the challenges facing the border environment included organised crime, normal criminal activities and rhino poaching. The next presentation had been developed to explain to the Committee how the BMA sought to address all of the challenges just outlined.
Mr Africa then gave a presentation on the Border Management Agency. If one went to any border post in South Africa, one would find a number of government departments doing their work there. This meant that there was a lack of a single system of control. In response to that, the government had put in place coordinating committees. However, the coordination mechanisms had proved incapable of addressing some of the structural management issues. In 2009, in the State of the Nation Address, the President had said that the government was going to start the process of setting up a BMA. In 2013, Cabinet had resolved to establish a BMA that would include the ceding of functions from the relevant organs of state, such as from Home Affairs, SARS etc, with a formal shift of functions into the BMA. Last year, the Cabinet had endorsed a vision for the BMA. The DHA must be the overseeing department.
With regard to the nature of border management, border management in South Africa was comprised of the following specific functions: immigration control; customs control; border safeguarding and surveillance; inspection of plants and plant products; border policing; inspection of animals, fish, animal products and foodstuff; and human health inspection. The DHA needed to be very explicit when deciding which of these functions would be covered by the BMA.
Considering current role-players in the border environment, studies had shown that there were approximately 9 031 state officials involved in points of entry from different departments. The majority of these officials came from the SAPS, followed by the DHA. The role-players found at all points of entry were the SANDF; the DHA; the South African Revenue Service (SARS); the Department of Health (DoH) and the SAPS. It was estimated that about R3.8 billion was utilised between various role-players in the border environment.
Key assumptions in the establishment of the BMA included that the BMA would be responsible for a basket of control functions. The BMA was not going to take on the role of the SANDF, which must be to protect the country against military aggression. The DHA wanted the SANDF to stop doing border control -- for example, stopping someone trying to jump the border -- as it was trying to separate border protection from border control. A second important point about the BMA was that it was not going to take over policy decisions.
When considering what kind of institution the BMA would be, there were five options: an executive authority; a department; a government component; a national public entity; or a government business enterprise. After doing a lot of research and consultation, the DHA had ended up with two options -- that the BMA would either be a government component or a national public entity, and its preference was a national public entity. The vision of the BMA was to balance the facilitation of legitimate and travel functions while simultaneously addressing security risks. Therefore the BMA was not only concerned with the movement of people. The BMA would be established as a single body, so that when one came to a point of entry, there must be a single body there. The BMA would be responsible to a single Minister, the Minister of Home Affairs, and would be responsible for all 72 points of entry into South Africa, as well as the entire border line.
The DHA had looked at international best practice and seen that the countries that were doing very well in terms of border management, had a system where all risk management was handled centrally. All of the concerned stakeholders came to one place, and everyone sat in one centre and tried to analyse all of the risks facing the country. If the BMA managed to get all of the relevant stakeholders and role-players to come together in one building, it would be a first for border management. The Port of Entry Control Centre (PECC) would be housed in one building. The BMA would also be responsible for its own infrastructure and would have its own organisational culture.
Mr M Khawula (IFP, KwaZulu-Natal) asked how the BMA was going to change how border posts operated, if functions related to border management were not also going to change. Nothing was going to change if the functions did not change. The four pilot sites chosen for the BMA implementation were ones that did not seem to have any challenges. Therefore, the successful implementation of the BMA at these sites would not prove that the BMA was going to be better at border management than the current organisations were. Because the pilot sites did not have any challenges, whatever programme was implemented at the sites would be better at border management than the current system.
He wanted to know how the BMA was going to be attending to the challenges that had been raised in the presentations on the border posts -- challenges of human resources, border lines etc.
He also asked why the SANDF only took information and monitored, and did not act when they saw something illegal happening at border posts or along border lines.
Mr D Stock (ANC, Northern Cape) asked about the issue of border management. From the presentation, it seemed that the BMA had all the solutions, but he wanted to know about the staff component of the BHA. Currently, border posts faced problems of corruption with staff taking bribes. He asked if the BMA was going to hire a new body of staff. In the presentations on the border posts, the DHA representatives had spoken of the problems that the border posts experienced with corruption, in which officials let illegal immigrants into or out of the country. It seemed that the only thing that was going to change from a layman’s point of view would be the uniform of officials. He was skeptical that the MBA was actually going to be able to change the functioning of the border posts, rather than just changing what they looked like. While Mr Stock believed that the BMA was a good idea and should be implemented, he just wanted it to respond to Members about how it would address this issue. As part of the solution, the DHA might try moving staff between different border posts, so that they did not become so familiar with one border post system, and comfortable at that border post, that they were tempted to be corrupt. People going out of the country or coming into the country illegally was a seasonal activity, so when officials were stationed at the same border post they got to know who the people were that did this every December. The people entering or leaving illegally also knew which officials to call when they wanted to do so. If these staff were rotated or redeployed between border posts, it might prevent them from knowing a particular border post’s processes well enough to be tempted to engage in corruption.
Ms L Zwane (ANC, KwaZulu-Natal) said that the government did not know how many people in South Africa had come from other countries because foreigners could cross borders and come into South Africa without being documented. They did not have any legal documentation allowing them to enter South Africa and yet they were still able to enter.
Another issue that she wanted to raise concerned resources, because the effective operation of the BMA was going to require a lot of resources, so while the DHA was planning for the establishment of the BMA, it needed to take this into consideration. She wanted some kind of assurance that the resources needed for the BMA to achieve its mandate were going to be available.
She also wanted to know if staff from the DHA was going to be retained by the MBA, because many of them were involved in corruption.
Ms L Mathys (EFF, Gauteng) thanked the DHA for its presentation, which she thought had been very informative. However, she was concerned that the DHA did not seem to have any women in its department.
The DHA had also mentioned that having taxi ranks near the border posts was problem, and she wanted to know why. The reason she asked was that most South Africans were poor and could not afford to buy cars and therefore relied on taxis for transport. She wanted to know if the DHA could work with the taxi associations to both provide transport to people and also to secure the border posts. In most instances, people crossing the border were just going to visit family.
She asserted that human trafficking was a huge issue and wanted to know what the DHA did when it found children that were being trafficked? She asked if the DHA had any statistics on human trafficking and how many people had actually been caught trying to traffic children.
Ms T Mampuru (ANC, Limpopo) said that when she traveled and went through the Beit Bridge border post, it seemed that people just moved in and out of the country without being documented or processed. She also wanted to know what the DHA was doing about the working conditions of staff. In the presentation, it had been detailed that there was a lack of drinking water and coolers, and that officials worked in the sun when it was very hot.
She asked how the DHA was going to be able to control informal points of entry. She was also concerned about immigrants that were in the country illegally, as it cost the DHA a lot of money to send them back to their countries of origin.
The Chairperson told the DHA to reply to those questions that they could respond to now, and to respond to the rest in writing. She said that there was maybe a need for a follow up meeting with representatives from other departments, as these issues needed to be brought to the attention of other departments. She also said that some of the issues that had been raised could be easily fixed -- for example, the lack of coolers at Beit Bridge. She said she could not imagine how staff survived at Beit Bridge without coolers, as it was always very hot there. She suggested that on the next oversight visit, the Committee might focus only on the borders.
The Chairperson said that the DHA was not getting enough funding, because other departments could spend money on lavish things while the DHA could not even fix a huge hole in a door, or maintain buildings so that they could be buildings that the DHA was proud of. While she was aware that the DHA was waiting for the Border Management Agency to be implemented, some of these buildings could be fixed in the meantime. She noted that while informal border posts were an issue, people who wanted to visit family often had to travel about 200kms in order to get to the nearest official border post. While informal border posts might be misused by criminals, they were mostly used by people who just wanted to visit their families and friends. People who decided on where the lines should be drawn between countries did not care about the communities that lived there, either in South Africa or in Mozambique.
The Chairperson was concerned that the issue of private air space had not been addressed in any of the presentations or been raised by any of the Members in their questions. Members were worried about people who walked over the border, because they could be seen, but Members should actually be concerned about people flying over the borders, as the DHA did not know what they were bringing into or taking out of the country. She asked the DHA how it was going to manage that issue, because she personally thought that this was the biggest problem facing border management. The mere fact that people were flying meant that they could afford to fly, which meant that they had the money needed for smuggling.
She also asserted that there was a need for a second border post - next to Limpopo – between South Africa and Mozambique. She wanted to know who she needed to make an official proposal to, and how to go about doing so in order to get a second one opened.
The Chairperson wanted to know how people could get through the border without being documented or processed. When she had personally been at a border post, she had thought to herself that there was no border there, because most people that crossed the border as pedestrians just seemed to walk through without being stopped by anyone in authority. She also knew that border posts closed early, as she had seen officials waiting for people to pass through so that they could close. The lack of holding areas was also a problem, because even though officers could catch people that were trying to enter or exit the country illegally or smuggle goods, there was nowhere to hold them and therefore they had to release them, and as soon as these people were released, they tried again. Sometimes the officials might catch the same person more than five times a day, as each time they had to release him or her and each time she or he came back and tried again. Maybe this means that the officials were too kind or lenient. She also commented that most of the problems concerning the management of borders were also related to other departments, and were much bigger than just the DHA. Other departments tended to think that the only issues that the DHA dealt with were issues related to identity documents, but the DHA was much bigger than that and dealt with much bigger problems.
She agreed with Members who said that the MBA should not take the current officials from the border posts unless it implemented a plan for major transformation. She was worried that in launching the BMA, the DHA was simply transferring all of the problems to one agency. She reminded the DHA that if it could not respond to all the questions immediately, that it could give them to the Committee in writing.
Mr Africa asked the Chairperson if she would allow the relevant people to give quick responses to the questions posed by Committee members. While it might be easier for the DHA to supply some of the answers to more difficult questions in writing, there were other questions that the DHA could respond to immediately.
The Chairperson replied that some Members had other arrangements for the afternoon, but asked that the Committee allow the DHA to quickly respond now to those questions that they could.
Home Affairs responded to the Committee’s concern that pedestrians just seemed to be walking over the border without being processed. The DHA had recognized that this was an issue and had identified the specific departments that needed to deal with it. Primarily, the inspectorate division of Home Affairs, supported by the SAPS, were mainly tasked with making sure that there was access control, and there was access control at both points, the South gate and North gate. The DHA had also spoken with their counterparts on the Zimbabwe side of the border, highlighting the issue of people who were not documented entering South Africa. The DHA had asked them to try and prevent this from happening as people did not enter Zimbabwe undocumented from the South African side. Some improvements had been made there, but there was still room for improvement.
There were counter-corruption units that were the experts in dealing with corruption. Unfortunately they could not permanently be stationed at points of entry, but from time to time they were called in to conduct operations to disrupt corruption. The DHA was also supported by the State Security Agency (SSA), so corruption was being dealt with from various angles.
With regard to the statistics on the trafficking of people, these were difficult to obtain as the trafficking legislation had been signed only in July 2013. Therefore it was difficult to find statistics which told one how many people had been charged with trafficking in people. However, if one were to go to Beit Bridge on 14 December, one would find a taxi full of children, with the driver being the only adult in the taxi. Seeing this, one wondered whether it was an instance of trafficking. However, because the DHA did not have legislation to enforce checking the documentation to prove the driver’s relationship to the children, there was not much that the DHA could do. Since the new legislation had been enacted,
when someone traveled with a child, there was a provision that said that that person must have proof of their relationship to that child, and prove who that child was to them. This legislation had been enacted not only to prevent issues of child smuggling and trafficking of children, but also to curb issues of abduction, as even parents were abducting their own children and taking them out of the country.
Adv Deon Erasmus, Chief Director of Legal Services: Home Affairs, responded to the issue of the designation of ports, saying that this was an issue that was also going to dealt with in the BMA Bill. The BMA Bill would deal not only with ports of entry, but also points of entry that were within the country, where goods were deposited and so on. The DHA was also looking at the structure of the BMA. As Mr Africa had indicated in his presentation, the DHA wanted a command and control structure, shaped like a pyramid, which would sort out a lot of the issues at the border posts.
The Department of Home Affairs was in the process of reviewing the immigration policy, and the Refugees Act of 1998 would also be amended. Between 80% and 90% of asylum seekers were economic asylum seekers. What sometimes happened was that people who were not in fact refugees claimed that they were economic refugees, which clogged the system. This was because the Supreme Court of Appeal had ruled that whenever anyone claimed asylum, that person needed to be assisted. So when a person was found in the country illegally and was taken to Lindela for repatriation purposes, they could claim asylum and then they had to be taken up in the asylum programme. The policy would consider those kinds of issues as well.
On the issue of a lack of women represented in the BMA, he assured the Committee that there were quite a few women assisting in the process of drafting the BMA Bill.
As regards human trafficking, there were other departments that were involved in that issue as well, such as the Department of Social Development.
In response to the question that had been asked by Ms Zwane about the benefits of the BMA, Mr Africa said that when the DHA addressed the Committee again, it would talk more about the benefits of the BMA and about things that would change, such as how information sharing would change, how the border line environment would change, etc.
The issue of resources was difficult, because all government departments had received the message from National Treasury that there were no new resources to be had. In response to that message, the DHA thought that it was fair that when the functions moved from different departments to the BMA that the resources related to those functions should also move from those departments to the BMA. However, the BMA was still going to need more resources than that.
The issue around taxis was also difficult. One concern that was normally voiced by officials at border posts was that taxis not only played their conventional and innocent role, they also contaminated the border environment and made the entire area less manageable. Taxis therefore posed a lot of security issues that had been raised by border post officials, and would need to be considered carefully.
He supported Ms Mathys’s suggestion, that when the DHA next addressed the Committee, it made sure that its gender composition was more equal.
The Chairperson concluded the meeting, but with the understanding that there were things that the Committee wanted to see the Department implementing. One matter was a wellness centre for officials working at border posts. She asserted that this was important, and that while it might sound like a luxury it was not, because considering the workload that they had, these employees needed to be helped to stay physically, emotionally and mentally well.
One last issue that she raised concerned the lack of enough staff at the border posts. She agreed with the DHA that staff numbers should be standardised for border posts, with a policy dictating how many employees would be needed for specific sizes of border posts.
The Chairperson excused representatives of the DHA and all guests and asked Members to stay for a short private meeting.
The meeting was adjourned.
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