Border Control: briefing by SAPS and Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee

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28 May 2008
Chairperson: Ms M Sotyu (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

The South African Police Service briefed the Committee on the state of the borderlines. Two divisions of the police service briefed Members specifically on the borderline operations and the ports of entry. The South African Police Service presented the Committee with information on the Organisations take-over strategy from the South African National Defence Force, their scope of responsibility, their functions and objectives, the status of the ports, training, operational strategies and their successes and challenges.

After the first presentation on the ports of entry, Members stated that they were concerned that the police were outsourcing too much of their training and that this would put the country in danger. The Committee also discussed the lack of coordination between departments within the South African Police Service and corruption at the border. Members were particularly concerned that the borderline strategic policy was still in draft format and had not yet been finalised.

Members stated that the reports showed that the South African Police Service did not have the capacity to maintain and manage the borderline. Various Members suggested that there should be an approach to the Executive to reverse the decision and to put the South African National Defence Force in charge of the borders again. A DA Member commented that it was due to the mistake made by Cabinet in their decision that non-South Africans were able to enter and leave South Africa illegally, using the country’s facilities, and that the budget, because it had not taken these extra people into account, was not able to cope with the demands. The Committee took issue with her statements, saying that they could be interpreted as xenophobic, and asked her to withdraw the statements, or the Committee would expressly state that this was her individual opinion that could not be shared by the Committee. The Chairperson would listen to the recording and issue media statements on what had been said by the Members.
The Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee briefed Members on their legal framework, mandate, achievements and challenges. They also focused on the National Integrated Border Management Strategy and its strategic objectives. The Committee discussed the role that the Department of Public Works played in the ports of entry and the process of making recommendations to Cabinet.


Meeting report

Opening Remarks
The Chairperson informed Members present that the meeting was called after the security cluster of Parliament visited the border and saw what the state of the border line was, and was intended to clarify what the South African Police Service (SAPS) was doing about the state of the border. However, since then SAPS was now faced with new challenges such as the xenophobic attacks. She advised that the Portfolio Committee on Defence could not be present at this meeting, as they were dealing with the budget of the Department at the moment. As soon as they were done, they would send a representative to the meeting. 

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Mr P Chauke (ANC) asked the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) on whom they had invited to the meeting.

Mr Gene Ravele, Chairperson for the BCOCC and General Manager for South African Revenue Services (SARS), informed the Committee that invitations had been sent to Home Affairs representatives but they were not able to get a flight. The National Intelligence Agency (NIA) was invited but the BCOCC was told that they were already presenting in Parliament on this day. The Department of Defence (DoD) was not invited, as they were not primary stakeholders in the BCOCC. The BCOCC only dealt with issues relating to the ports of entry.

The Chairperson stated that she was not aware that the DoD was not part of the BCOCC, or she would have invited them separately.

Ms P Daniels (ANC), representative for the Portfolio Committee on Defence, stated that she thought that the BCOCC was responsible for the borderline and for entry.

Mr Ravele informed her that this had changed, and the BCOCC was now only responsible for the ports of entry.

The Chairperson stated that she was worried about the ports of entry. She feared that there would be trouble, as the borderline and ports of entry were not properly separated. This confusion would inhibit the Committee from achieving what they wanted to achieve.

Mr Dennis Bloem, (ANC), Chairperson of Portfolio Committee on Correctional Services, thought that all the necessary departments were to be involved in the meeting. The Committee was going to pose questions that the necessary departments needed to answer.

Ms D Kohler-Barnard (DA) was extremely concerned that the Department of Defence (DOD) was absent from the meeting. She stated that she did not believe that the meeting could proceed properly if Members could not speak to the people who were responsible for security of the borderline.

Mr S Cwele (ANC) suggested that the Committee hear the briefing by the SAPS, as there were policy issues that needed to be dealt with, and this suggestion was acceded to.

Ports of Entry and Security at border posts: SAPS Division: Protection and Security
Commissioner Elias Mawela, Head of Ports of Entry and Security, SAPS, reminded Members that the SAPS was given the responsibility of policing and securing all ports of entry in 2003.

The SAPS was responsible for 54 land ports, 8 sea ports, 1 dry dock, 10 international airports and 6 trans-frontier parks. The SAPS’ functions at the ports of entry were to prevent and combat trans-national crimes, to combat organised crime, to prevent and combat illegal border crossings and migrations and to protect the South African inhabitants and their property. The objectives would be to enhance national security and to optimise territorial integrity.

Land ports were divided in to three categories; commercial ports, semi commercial ports and non-commercial ports. Personnel deployment in the three different land ports was based on the level of activities within the port as well as the status of the ports.

There were two categories of sea ports. The first type of sea port was characterised by a high level of trade activity, where there was a constant movement of commercial ships and passenger vessels. The second category looked at medium trade activity. Personnel deployment in sea ports was based on the level of activities within the port as well as the status of the ports.

Airports consisted of major commercial airports and semi commercial airports. Once again, personnel deployment in airports was based on the level of activities in as well as the status of the port. 

The Protection and Security Division of SAPS hoped to have 800 new constables enlisted in 2008/09 and 1200 new enlistments for 2009/2010. The Division’s successes included the acquisition of police vehicles, the procurement of six vessels, the improvement of various facilities and acquisition of mobile homes at land ports, the installation of a telephone system in Durban and the Lesotho border, and the installation of a CCTV camera system for Beitbridge.

In terms of training in the Division, there was basic police training and specialised training such as maritime and aviation training, which were outsourced, document detection training, firearm training and dog handling services.

The operational strategy looked at ensuring effective and efficient policing, placing all SAPS resources under one command, dividing the port area into sectors, having 24 hour operations in all sectors, having intelligence-driven operations and attaining a balance between trade and security. The operational strategy also focused on developing the investigation and intelligence capability, phasing out the detached duty system, adequate representation in the BCOCC and implementation of the National Border Control Centre.

The challenges that were experienced included insufficient personnel, rail crossings not being regarded as ports of entry and therefore lacking infrastructure, lack of amenities and public facilities, the uncertainty with regard to the free movement of goods and people, and the operational and infrastructural budget deficit.  

Ms Daniels noted that the Commissioner spoke of outsourcing maritime training and aviation training. She wondered why the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and SAPS did not work together instead of outsourcing. She asked how the SAPS fitted in with the Customs Union.

Comm Mawela answered that agriculture and health sectors were involved in the SAPS and were focused on the prevention of certain illegal goods, such as alien plants and medication, entering the country.

Mr Chauke noted that compared to previous reports, this report showed a slight improvement. He asked about the coordination between the SAPS and the BCOCC and how the SAPS planned to overcome the challenges that they faced at local, provincial and national level. He also warned the SAPS that rail crossings needed to be monitored.

Comm Mawela stated that the SAPS were part and parcel of the BCOCC. This ensured that all projects that they embarked on at the ports of entry were coordinated. The SAPS followed a logical operational procedure with the BCOCC at the ports of entry, where individuals at the borderlines were allowed the opportunity to go to Home Affairs.

He said that there were no longer trains that transported people out of the country, although there were goods trains that moved in and out of the country. The railways were in need of infrastructure such as platforms, as the trains were stopping in areas where there were no platforms. SAPS was engaging with Transnet so that they could be accommodated in those areas and provided with the necessary infrastructure.

Ms D Nhlengethwa (ANC), Whip for Safety and Security, asked SAPS if they provided the police that were on the border with bullet-proof vests. She wanted to know how much of the budget SAPS had set aside for the outsourcing of training.

Comm Mawela stated that the SAPS provided bullet proof vests, but that there were issues with the sizes of the vests and their availability. 

Ms A Van Wyk (ANC) stated that there was a problem with the coordination between departments and there were now two different divisions within SAPS taking responsibility for the borderline and the ports of entry. She was worried that their strategy was not yet finalised but it was still in the draft stages. SAPS’ strategy would only be finalised after they took over from SANDF. This would not work, in her view. She was also worried that new constables who had no experience whatsoever would protect the borderline. She wondered if it was possible to change this approach.

Comm Mawela stated that the SAPS could not say much about the take-over strategy, as there was going be a follow-up that would focus on the ports of entry, which had always been SAPS’ responsibility.

He stated that new constables placed at the ports of entry were combined with experienced police so the new constables would not be without some experience to guide them. 

Mr Cwele asked SAPS from whom they were outsourcing training. He wanted to know what infrastructure was needed for the protection of the railways and borderline. He suggested that the SAPS needed to focus more attention on the free movement of criminals into South Africa and not on legal, documented people. He also thought that more attention should be given to security at airports, as there were wealthy people who flew privately and were not checked through airport entry points.

Comm Mawela answered that outsourcing referred to aviation courses, as there was no aviation academy currently in the country. There was, however, an academy that was owned by ATLF and police were trained at that ATLF Academy. The SAPS also outsourced from universities. He explained that the SAPS had initially had an aviation academy but it had to shut down because it could not adhere to international standards. The Navy also assisted the SAPS with diving training. There were certain institutions that were helping the SAPS to align their standards with international standards.

Mr L Landers (ANC) asked for more information on where the international and national airports were. Some of the smaller airports were “corporatised” and people were flying into the country without being checked.

Comm Mawela stated that there were ten international airports and added that the private airlines were not simply flying people in and out of the country. They informed the SAPS that they would be arriving in or leaving the country, and the necessary people were sent to complete the administrative process. SAPS was, however, working on a checking system.

Mr Bloem warned that SAPS could not outsource training. When SAPS trained people, they had to be very sure that these trainees were being well trained. By outsourcing training, SAPS was putting the country in danger. It was the police’s duty to train its own people. When the Security Cluster had visited the border, they were told that the police were simply running away when syndicates wanted to cross the border, as they were heavily armed. The issue of training constables had to be addressed. He asked what the rate of corruption was in all the other departments working on the borderline.

Comm Mawela stated that previously there had been no college that specialised in aviation security training. There were some police who were training at the South African Navy in Simons Town.

He assured the Committee that SAPS was focusing attention on the issue of corruption. They were particularly focused on clearing agents and customs officials, and the extortion of money at the borders. There were joint operations with the BCOCC, where they were arresting corrupt officials.

The Chairperson stated that she understood that the police at the borders fell under national policing. She asked how the police handled criminal activities at the borders if provincial commissioners were not involved.

Mr Chauke told the SAPS that they needed to look at how they could use the State’s resources for the benefit of all in the country.

Mr Landers spoke about conduct at airports. He stated that the issue was not only about checking baggage but SAPS also had to look at whether people were complying with customs laws as well as immigration laws.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that after looking through all the reports, she noticed that the reports for the SAPS and BCOCC were very different. The challenges that the BCOCC experienced seemed to be successes for the SAPS. The reports should not have differed so much.

Ms Kohler-Barnard agreed. She stated that there were so many problems in the BCOCC’s report that this organisation should be made a priority.

Mr Bloem stated that the SAPS needed to go in to detail about their activities at the OR Tambo Airport, as there were criminals loitering everywhere there.

The Chairperson agreed that the BCOCC needed to be a priority and the issue of visible policing needed to be discussed.

Mr Cwele stated that SAPS needed to produce a better report on how they were going to handle people at the border.

The Chairperson stated that she was glad that Members were mentioning the issues that they had with the OR Tambo Airport, as there were indeed many problems at the airport that needed to be discussed. 

Division: Visible Policing, Briefing on Borderline Operations by SAPS
Mr Shane Korabie, Section Head for Borderline Operations, SAPS, informed Members of the Division’s operational strategy. The Committee was told that the SAPS’ Borderline Control Policy was still in draft format and that it would be completed after the taking-over phase from SANDF had come to an end.

He explained that a Borderline Policing Strategy was developed to enhance borderline control and would involve police stations, ports of entry and borderline control members. SAPS had taken over the borderline policing function from SANDF along the borders of the Northern Cape, North West Province, the Free State, Eastern Cape, Kwazulu-Natal, Mpumalanga and Limpopo. The SAPS was still deployed jointly with the SANDF along the Limpopo/Zimbabwe border.

In terms of sea borderline control, SAPS established operational units at Simon’s Town and Richards Bay. Units were equipped with vessels, rubber ducks and other specialised equipment. Air borderline control was performed in all provinces except the Western Cape. The function would be rolled out to Western Cape in the current financial year.

The Division successfully arrested 35 258 undocumented persons, 289 persons dealing in dagga, 57 persons in possession of illegal firearms and 23 people for armed robbery.

Challenges that were experienced included geographical conditions, the availability of intelligence, commitment of all role players, personnel strength and demarcation of the South African borders.

Ms Nhlengethwa asked for the figures for theft that happened on the borderline. She stated that the Report showed that the SAPS did not have the skills and capacity to maintain and manage the borderline. She said that the Committee should make the decision that SANDF manage the borderline again.

Mr Chauke added that at some points in the different provinces, the borderline was not even properly defined yet. He stated that the SAPS were not even sure of the territorial line of the country and that they needed to know what capacity was needed to manage that borderline. The Committee needed to find out what the role of the Department of Public Works was in maintaining the fence on the border. Since 2003, SAPS still had only a draft policy in place for the border, and he pointed out that without finalising the policy, issue of security could not be properly addressed. Since the security was in their hands, SAPS had to find a solution to the problems so that there was enough policing on the border. Members wanted people to come to the country, but they wanted them to cross into the country legally.

Ms Daniels addressed SAPS, saying that they should be honest about whether they were ready to take over the control of the border from SANDF. She was concerned that SAPS did not know how expensive it was to acquire and maintain airports, as they were still in the process of maintaining members of the SAPS. She wanted to know what role the SAPS played in the National Ports Authority.

Mr Moatshe commented that people crossed over the border to South Africa freely and there was a lot of work to be done. It was difficult for SAPS to control the border, as they did not have the equipment to protect the borderline adequately.

Ms Kohler-Barnard stated that she would not be criticising the SAPS for the attempts that they made to control the borderline, as the decision made in 2003 by the Cabinet had proven to be a disaster. Allowing the SAPS to do SANDF’s job was a bizarre decision, and she suggested that it had to be reversed immediately. The fact that the borderline policy was still in draft format was inexplicable. The SAPS could not list the arrest of 35 000 undocumented aliens in a year as a success, when the Committee was in the same breath told that at times there were 25 000 more aliens crossing the border. Many of the successes listed in the Report were actually failures. The whole body that was put together to control the borderline had not delivered, as they did not work together. The Auditor-General was scathing about the situation, as there was no strategic plan, no divisional policy relating to operations, no specialised support structure for crime intelligence and no security analysis for the fences on the borderline. SAPS had had the responsibility of the border for five years and they had not done anything. This was a disgrace. She stated that those at the meeting had to face that there was no effective border and that residents from other countries in Africa would simply enter and leave South Africa as they liked, using our hospitals and schools and food, or settling here, with the result that the budgets for the legal residents were not coping. She said that “somebody somewhere” took a bizarre decision that the defence force was to be deployed elsewhere in Africa to look at other problems, and would not be at the border where they were supposed to be. SANDF was supposed to hand their equipment to SAPS, yet they had not. She wondered why there was no organised plan and no analysis of what was happening on the borders. This was an absolute disgrace and the Cabinet needed to take another decision.

Mr V Ndlovu (IFP) stated that the Committee had to look at what the SAPS’ mandate was, as that mandate was not clear. He wondered if they were telling the rest of the country that security did not know where South Africa’s border was. 

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) stated that in 2003 when the decision was made to give control of the border to the SAPS, he had criticised that whole strategy. The President announced that a precondition of the strategy was that there should not be a vacuum of security in South Africa. This morning, the Committee had heard about a huge problem and breach of security on the national borders, so he believed that it should be the President’s constitutional obligation to stop the whole process, and to make it a priority to save the integrity of the country’s borders. He asked what the criteria were for SANDF and SAPS takeover strategy. If one unit of the SANDF withdrew, another unit from the SAPS should surely take over. He wanted to know how many police members were available to protect and control the border. He noted that the fence on the borderline in Mpumalanga had been completely handed over to the SAPS. He wanted to know if the electric fence in Mpumalanga was outsourced to a private company, and if the police had received reports on the problems at the fence and were attending to them. He asked also if the fence was in a working condition.

Mr Bloem stated that he wanted to disagree with statements made by Ms Kohler-Barnard. It was true that the country’s borders were to be protected; however, he felt that the comments that people were coming to use our hospitals and eat our food were unacceptable, as she was talking about South Africa’s fellow brothers and sisters. Ms Kohler-Barnard’s party leader, Ms Helen Zille, was “singing another story” and taking food parcels to those very same people who had crossed the border. It was incorrect to say that the Government was irresponsible. Members of Parliament were lawmakers who were supposed to find solutions to the problems. It was incorrect and unacceptable for Ms Kohler-Barnard to complain that people outside of South Africa were using the country’s facilities. 

The Chairperson stated that she understood what Mr Bloem was saying about Ms Kohler-Barnard’s statements, as these statements were similar to the statements being made before the xenophobic attacks started. This Committee was not saying that they did not want people to come to the country; they wanted people to come legally. She thought that Ms Kohler-Barnard’s statements were too harsh.

Mr S Abram (ANC) stated that the mandate basically said that the SAPS were to take control of the borderline from the SANDF. The SAPS must have realised the challenges from the day that they were mandated to control the border. He wondered if the Executive was made aware of these challenges and what was to be done about them. He doubted that SAPS would be able to fulfil their obligations without the necessary capacity and resources. He asked if SAPS would still be able to “get on top of the situation” and if they were supported by the intelligence structures of the country. Mr Abram thought that the figures in the report were disappointing; however, he empathised with the SAPS because of the lack of resources. He stated that it was time to be bold and to admit that a mistake had been made when control of the borderline was taken away from SANDF and given to an overstretched SAPS.

Mr Chauke stated that it was important that Ms Kohler-Barnard withdraw her controversial statements.

Ms Nhlengethwa informed the Committee that Ms Kohler-Barnard had stepped outside after her statement and was seen talking to the media. She stated that if the statements made to the media were the same as the one she made to the Committee, then those statements also had to be withdrawn.

The Chairperson stated that Members were free to talk to the media. If Ms Kohler-Barnard told the media the same things that she had uttered in the Committee, then it should be seen as her own view and not the view of the Committee.

The Chairperson informed Ms Kohler-Barnard that Members were concerned about the statements that she made about people taking the country’s food and jobs. This could be wrongly interpreted that the Committee supported what was happening in the country. The Committee was not saying that people should not come to the country; they were saying that people should come to the country legally. The Committee thought that Ms Kohler-Barnard should withdraw her statement.

Ms Kohler Barnard stated that whom she spoke to was her business. The statement that she had just made to the media concerned the Scorpions, and was not about the proceedings of the meeting. The Committee had no control over what she said at any stage. She said that the statement that she had made had been absolutely correct, as she had served on the Portfolio Committee for Health and she knew that one of the greatest concerns was that people would be using facilities, yet no budget had been allocated for that particular use. She stated that the Democratic Alliance (DA) felt enormous sympathy for those affected by the xenophobic attacks; however, if people came in to the country legitimately and there was a record of their entry, then the country would be able to budget for facilities for them.

The Chairperson informed Ms Kohler-Barnard that the issue was the statement that she made earlier in the meeting about people taking South Africa’s food and using the country’s medicine. She said that if this were the DA’s stance then Ms Kohler-Barnard would have to say so, as this was not the Committee’s stance. 

Ms Kohler-Barnard stated that she did not say that foreign residents came in and took the country’s jobs; she said that they came in to the country and used the facilities.

Mr Cwele stated that it had not been his intention to speak on the issue until he heard Ms Kohler-Barnard’s xenophobic stance. The Committee had to put it on record that it was an unfortunate and inappropriate statement and that it was not the view of the Committee.

Ms Van Wyk said that it was the right decision to say that SAPS was to take control of the ports of entry and that the challenges faced at the ports of entry needed to be addressed. She thought that the problem was actually with borderline control because of difficulties in the SAPS management. The SAPS kept telling the Committee that everything was fine and that they were in control of the borders. Either they were not in touch with reality and with their own staff on the borders or they thought that the issues were not really important. It was unfortunate that the Executive was not at the meeting, as they were responsible for the borderline policy, not the SAPS. She did not understand how the SAPS could have a strategy without a policy. As a collective and the Security Cluster, they would have to make a recommendation to the Executive to reconsider the decision to give control of the borderline to the SAPS.

Mr Groenewald proposed that the Committee ask the Minister for Safety and Security and the Minister for Defence to answer some of the questions posed at the meeting.

Mr Bloem stated once again that Ms Kohler-Barnard should withdraw the statements that she made earlier in the meeting, or that the Committee had to put it on record that the Committee did not agree with what was said.

The Chairperson stated that she was going to get the recording of the meeting and was going to inform the media of all the sentiments uttered by individuals in the Committee.

The Chairperson informed the Committee that she was not going to take the SAPS’ responses due to time constraints. The SAPS should take note of the questions and concerns from Members and send a written response to those questions to her office.

Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee
Mr Ravele informed the Committee that Chapter 3 of the Constitution and Section 4 of the Intergovernmental Relations Framework Act regulated the BCOCC. The BCOCC’s mandate for strategic and operational coordination at the ports of entry was to develop and implement the National Integrated Border Management Strategy, plan and act within one framework, create a workable balance between security, trade, tourism and economic development and advise policy makers on matters relating to border management.

The BCOCC’s achievements consisted of the development of an Organisational Framework and Terms of Reference, the establishment of the Joint Operations Command Centre, the development of a National Integrated Border Management Strategy (NIBMS) and the establishment of an employee Wellness and Well-being Programme at the ports of entry.

Strategic challenges experienced were the coordination of border management, officers who lacked the culture of discipline, the fact that the new IT systems were not integrated and fully embedded, the lack of adoption, as yet, of the facilities’ strategy and the lack of an integrated anti-corruption strategy. Challenges at the ports of entry included the layout of land ports not being conducive for the deployment of border control technology, search facilities not adequately monitored, lack of equipment and employee housing. 

The NIBMS focused on an Integrated Border Management where planning and acting would occur within one legal and policy framework whilst retaining agency-specific accountabilities, the movement of people, animals and goods would be regulated, and facilities, transport modes and personnel would be protected. The Strategic Objectives for the NIBMS would be to implement a single border management strategy, to implement an integrated and responsive border control system and to create a National Border Management Coordination Mechanism.

Mr Chauke stated that the state of the borders left much to be desired. The Department of Public Works was to come forward and explain why there were no proper ports of entry. He added that South Africans did not know that the country did not have a tracking scanner in the country and that South Africa was currently using the Zimbabwean scanner. There was a need for more documentation and each country was to provide their people with the proper documents. 

Mr Ravele answered that the Department of Public Works was doing a lot of work with the infrastructure at the ports of entry.

A representative from the Department of Public Works stated that the Department had the task of providing accommodation to all departments at the land ports of entry. There were some challenges that were experienced in providing the accommodation. The Department was in the process of providing mobile units as part of the delivery of accommodation; however, they accepted that this was not an ideal situation.

The Department of Public Works was also involved in a Repair and Maintenance (RAM) project that focused on upgrading all land ports of entry. The Department’s plan was more focused on repairing ports of entry than providing accommodation for the additional staff. The Department was addressing this problem.  

Mr Leonard Radebe,
SARS Deputy Chief Operations Officer, and Head of Customs, stated that Mozambique provided the container cargo scanner. There was also a container cargo scanner in Durban and the BCOCC was looking to add another scanner in Durban as well as the Western Cape and Port Elizabeth. 

Ms Daniels wanted to know who recommended issues to Cabinet.

Mr Ravele stated that the BCOCC was a subcommittee of the Justice, Crime Prevention and Security (JCPS) Cluster. When the BCOCC made a decision, this would be conveyed to the JCPS who would take it to the Inter-Ministerial Committee on Security, who in turn would make a final recommendation to Cabinet.

The Chairperson thanked the presenters and noted that they were faced with some difficult challenges but believed that, with the Committee’s assistance, they would improve.

The meeting was adjourned.



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