Border Management Agency (BMA): SAPS briefing; Border facilities: follow up meeting with Department of Public Works

This premium content has been made freely available


17 June 2015
Chairperson: Mr F Beukman (ANC)
Share this page:

Meeting Summary

The Committee met with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) to be briefed on the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA) and the facilities at the Lebombo border post in Mpumalanga, between South Africa and Mozambique.

SAPS provided the Committee with background information to border management in SA, mandates around border management, and the progress and nature of border management. The Committee was also told of the international observations on managing the borderline, key assumptions and considerations around the establishment of the BMA, institutional options for the establishment of the BMA and issues and concerns around the establishment of the BMA in terms of unanswered questions.

Members were briefed specifically on SAPS’s operational response services for border policing in terms of infrastructure for office and residential accommodation at ports of entry. They were given an overview of SAPS’s challenges at the Lebombo border post, the status of the facilities supposed to have been handed over to Defence, the collective approach process, the fixed establishment and personnel, and the status of the scanners.

The DPW briefed the Committee on the provision of infrastructure at the Lebombo land port of entry, beginning with the context of the development of ports of entries and the background to the Lebombo border post, focussing specifically on the bypass road, the freight processing area and pedestrian facility. The presentation also looked at the future development in phase two, drawing attention to the financial implications, delaying factors and corrective measures, planning for re-development, newly constructed land ports of entry and scanners at the border posts.

The Committee then engaged in discussion on SAPS’s plans for the interim phase, before the BMA was properly implemented, plans to acquire the scanners -- for which there was a dire need – and SAPS’s operational role and readiness to partake in the interim arrangements. Members were not pleased that the DPW had included pristine images of facilities in its presentation when Members were fully aware of the real state of the facilities, having seen them at first hand during an overtsight visit. Other questions were about why SAPS members were the only ones paying for accommodation, the nature of disputes causing delays, the involvement of SAPS or other departments at the Waterkloof Air Force Base, new visa regulations affecting land ports of entry, intelligence gathering at borders, inter-departmental provincial committees and the status of officials arrested for corruption at various ports.

After asking specific questions on the facilities at the borders, some Members questioned the practicality and feasibility of the BMA. They were concerned about the capacity to target organised cross-border crime, the searching of trains and the state of barracks that had been transferred to Defence. It was clear that the BMA would be established in 2016/17, so the Committee needed to fulfil its oversight and monitoring function in this environment and study progress reports in the interim, because border control and policing was a key priority of the Committee. 

Meeting report

Chairperson's introductory comments
The Chairperson provided background to the meeting, noting that it was a follow-up from the Committee’s visit to Mpumalanga from 2 to 5 February 2015, where Members visited the Lebombo border post and other facilities. On 18 February, the Committee had then had a joint-meeting with the SA Police Service (SAPS) and the Department of Public Works (DPW) on the issues relating to public infrastructure at the border. The aim of today’s meeting was to assess if progress had been made six months after the Committee’s visit, what the stumbling blocks were and what could be done from the side of the Committee to address these issues. An excellent research paper had recently been published by Parliament’s Research Unit entitled Safeguarding South Africa’s Land Borders, in which it had been highlighted that some of the same issues had already been raised in 2007, and were not effectively correct. The meeting also came in the wake of the Border Management Agency (BMA) coming into being in the next year or two, so the Committee needed to also look at the readiness of SAPS to play its role in this space.

Some of the findings of the Committee and identified SAPS challenges at the Lebombo border post during the oversight were:

  • The current structure for policing was not conducive, as no offices had been provided for SAPS;
  • Policing needs were largely ignored during the construction of the facilities;
  • The borderline was not properly secured in terms of fencing;
  • SAPS members were exposed to an unhealthy work environment, with no adequate shelter in temperatures between 40 and 42 degrees;
  • Dust was a major problem;
  • Unavailability of a bulk cargo scanner.

The Committee had recommended:

  • The DPW be called before the Committee to account for infrastructure and the state of the police buildings in Mpumalanga and the Lebombo land port of entry;
  • Facilities and accommodation for police officers serving at the Lebombo land port of entry should be sourced by the SAPS supply chain management division;
  • SAPS management must engage with the SA Revenue Service (SARS) management to expedite the procurement of a bulk cargo scanner at the Lebombo border post.

Lt Gen Khehla Sithole, SAPS Deputy National Commissioner: Policing, noted that the presentation had been highlighted as confidential because airports and harbours were classified as strategic installations and national key points.  He apologised for the second presentation arriving late, because he was under the impression that the presentation would be delivered jointly between SAPS and the BMA.

The Chairperson accepted the apology. He asked if the document was then declassified. 

Lt Gen Sithole said the standard practice was for the document to be kept classified, but not necessarily for the Committee. This was how national key points and strategic installations were treated.

The Chairperson said that if the document was tabled in the Committee, it was a public one. He found it unacceptable that the DPW was late, especially given that the Department had not produced a document at the meeting last week with the Committee. He had raised it personally with the Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works, Mr Ben Martins. The DPW was not playing its part.

Mr D Twala (EFF) was concerned that the presentation document could jeopardize national security if it was discussed in the Committee forum. He suggested the issue of DPW cooperation should be taken up with the Minister of Public Works himself, because it was unacceptable and could not be allowed to continue.  

Mr L Ramatlakane (ANC) agreed that the treatment the Committee was receiving from the DPW on important issues was not good at all and should be taken up with the appropriate authority in the Department, as this could not continue. He accepted the explanation on the confidentiality of the document, but wanted to know the implications of the document being declassified for the Committee and thus able to be presented, but classified outside of the Committee. By virtue of the document being presented in the Committee, the document was already declassified.  

Lt Gen Sithole said SAPS would have been happy if the document was treated as being for the knowledge of the Committee only, simply because strategic installations and national key points were a national security issue. The Committee needed more detail on certain matters, but this detail could not be presented to the public because it could be received by the wrong ears and become a security threat to the country.

The Chairperson said that by virtue of the document being tabled formally in the Committee, it was in the public domain and the presentation should continue in this light.

Mr J Maake (ANC) understood that the document, in its current state, could be presented to the Committee but any further detail would need to be provided separately, only to the Committee. He found it within the Chairperson's right to choose to close the meeting to the public for the Committee to hear the details only of this presentation, or to continue with the presentation as it was.

The Chairperson understood that nothing in the presentation was classified, but any further detail could be provided to the Committee in the light of confidentiality for the Committee to consider. He said that he was still waiting on the presentation of the DPW following on from last week's Committee meeting.  

Briefing by SAPS on the Border Management Agency
Lt Gen Sithole, by way of introduction, explained the Border Management Agency process had begun in the State of the Nation Address, followed by a Cabinet memo during 2013, with the overall lead agency being the Department of Home Affairs. SAPS was a role player, being responsible for the 72 border posts, some land and sea ports, and the policing of the borders. For this there were police stations located on the borders.   

Brig David Chilembe, SAPS Section Head: Border Coordination, took the Committee through the presentation, noting that border management in SA was currently exercised through multiple departments and state agencies. Before and after 1994, many bodies had played a coordination role in the border environment -- for example, the Border Affairs Committee Coordinating Committee (1996), National Inter-Departmental Structure (NIDS) (1997), Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) (2001) and the Inter-Agency Clearing Forum (IACF) (2010). Coordination mechanisms had proved incapable of addressing the systemic and structural management problems affecting effective border management and border security in the country. Various national intelligence estimates had pointed to significant weaknesses, threats and challenges in the border environment of SA.

In terms of mandate, in his 3 June 2009 State of the Nation Address, President Zuma had stated that government “will start the process of setting up a Border Management Agency” in SA. On 26 June 2013, Cabinet had resolved that the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) should take the lead in the establishment of the Border Management Agency (BMA) in SA. Cabinet had endorsed the guiding principles for the BMA establishment process, the implementation steps for the establishment of the BMA and the formulation of an inter-ministerial oversight committee for the duration of the BMA establishment period.

The BMA would be guided by the following principles:

  • The BMA should be responsible and accountable for the entire border environment;
  • The role of the BMA should be to ensure coordination, collaboration, oversight, control and effective management;
  • The establishment of the BMA could be achieved through integrated systems and cooperation within an appropriate legal framework that specified roles. 

The implementation of the BMA was to:

  • Appoint a project manager by the end of the August 2013 to be based in the office of the DHA Minister in Pretoria;
  • The Minister of Home Affairs would appoint an oversight committee for the duration of the project, consisting of the heads of principle departments that operated in the border environment;
  • Develop and submit a draft business case, including a budget to National Treasury;
  • Develop a policy framework and operational model for the BMA and prepare a draft Bill that would give legislative effect to the establishment of the BMA by the end of the 2014/15 financial year;
  • Build on existing achievements and strengthen key areas of border control and management as part of the process of implementing the BMA.

Brig Chilembe then took the Committee through progress of the above implementation plan. International observations on the management of the borders were then discussed, as this was undertaken internationally in different ways. Many countries separated the military function of defending the country and protecting its sovereignty from the administrative tasks of border control. In many countries, the border control function was undertaken by the military, para-military, police and/or law enforcement agencies.

With some of the key assumptions, the BMA would likely assume responsibility for a basket of control functions currently performed by a number of organs of state. Border safeguarding and the protection of South African sovereignty was the responsibility of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). The DPW, Department of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (DAFF), Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), DHA and SAPS perform supporting border control and administrative functions. Only five border management authorities had a permanent presence at Ports of Entry (POEs) and the Border Control Operational Coordinating Committee (BCOCC) played a coordinating role at POEs. The BMA should not be tasked with the development and ongoing refinement of “national policy” areas of human travel, immigration, trade, customs, health, phyto-sanitary issues, etc. The BMA should be tasked with the implementation of national policy of parent departments, and interact with policy departments and share operational experience. The establishment of new South African organs of state or the shifting of functions did not make effectiveness gains a given, but phased implementation should be considered.

The Committee was then told of some institutional options for consideration in the establishment of the BMA. The two biggest options were for the BMA to be located within the public service, or outside the public service. Issues and concerns relating to institutional form and conditions of service were for clarity on uniform conditions of service, risks of fragmenting the public service, how long it would take to move capacity from different departments, which affected 21 departments working in the border environment. Questions being asked of the borderline mandate were related to implications of demobilising the SANDF on the borderline, overlapping functions on the borderline, considering agency relationships with the DHA, BMA, SAPS and SANDF, and certainty about the Cabinet mandate regarding the borderline.

Further issues and concerns related to envisaging the huge establishment, constitutionally and legally complex endeavours, a need for a constitutional amendment, a wide range of functions being pulled together, operational challenges, whether the proposals mentioned had been budgeted for, modern technology being a game changer for the critical integration of platforms, identification of efficiency gains, secondments from departments to the BMA during transition, and the state law adviser questioning the legality of transition. 

Operational Response Services: Border Policing
Brig Chilembe took the Committee through the SAPS second presentation, noting that the DPW had made it very clear in numerous meetings that any structure or building that had been earmarked for demolition could not be refurbished and/or upgraded. With regard to Lebombo, an unprecedented decision had been taken to upgrade a ”pedestrian” processing facility, specifically to ease up border congestion during the 2010 Soccer World Cup. The upgraded structure was also meant to be utilised as an interim facility while the other existing structures were being demolished. The truck bypass road and facilities were meant to be interim structures as well.

Brig Chilembe turned to the status of the facilities which were supposed to have been handed over by Defence, saying that all the police resources, including vehicles and office furniture, had been distributed to the nearest ports of entry and some to a mobilisation unit in Pretoria. The human resources had been sent back to their normal police stations, as the police at the time did not have permanent members deployed. It should be noted that the human resources, with the exception of cleaners and labourers, were deployed on afour months’ rotational detachment duty basis. The cleaners and labours were provided with an option to choose the stations of their choice, while some were sent to the nearest ports due to the proximity of their homes. The only operational bases still not taken over by Defence, and which were still under the command and control of the SAPS, were Himeville and Upper Tugela in the borderline between the Kingdom of Lesotho and KwaZulu-Natal (KZN).

In terms of office and residential accommodation, the issue regarding office and residential accommodation would be discussed and dealt with in two phases, the first phase being the process followed with regard to the collective approach, while in the second phase, the process would highlight the rationale regarding the concept and the declaration of the Lebombo port as a one stop border post. In terms of the collective approach, the objective was to enable departments to decide together on priority resources, and also to force departments to share such resources. During 2009, Treasury had issued an instruction that all needs should be consolidated and budgeted for collectively. This also included needs such as scanners - a joint scanner project had been established to look at all needs regarding the purchasing of scanners. The BCOCC had therefore established an infrastructure committee under the lead of the DPW to facilitate the process. All departments charged with border control were members and were represented in this structure.

The process also included the Repair and Maintenance Programme (RAMP), which was responsible for the repair, cleaning and maintenance of the various land ports. Other projects such as Golela and Vioolsdrift had a R123 million budget for implementing the RAMP. The funding in question was for housing projects at Golela and Skilpad. State of the art office and residential accommodation had been built and completed at Golela and Vioolsdrift, while the Skilpad facility was currently at an advanced stage of completion. With regard to Lebombo, specific police residential accommodation with approximately 80 rooms had been built and completed to accommodate members through the DPW’s funding.

The Chairperson was surprised to hear the last point about the housing, because it had not come up when the Committee visited the province.

Brig Chilembe said that based on the fact that the police sometimes had requirements that were operational specific for the Department, SAPS had been engaged to include such issues in its capital budget. These requirements included resources such as generators, special equipment, information communication technology (ICT), diesel etc, which were used for operational functions outside the normal border control functions. The challenge with the above was that SAPS tended to neglect the border environment and did not put their needs as a priority because they were of the opinion that border specific needs were catered for by the DPW capital budget.

Turning to the fixed establishment and personnel, he said that during 2006 the Component Border Policing and the Component Organisational Development had embarked on a work study investigation that concentrated on the entire port of entry environment. The study’s objective related to the “Development of Organisational, Functional and Personnel Structures Supporting the Optimised Policing and Security Strategy for all ports of entry in South Africa”. The study had been approved and had come up with a formula that categorised all ports into categories A, B, C and D, which were based on the functions and load of work for each port. The port in question was categorised as category B, based on the load of activities to be performed at that port. The ideal personnel amounted to a total of 489.  A plan of action had been devised in order to resource and staff it, in line with the approved Resource Allocation Guide. During 2010, police management had reorganised the functioning of the border environment and had placed all ports, with the exception of Durban Harbour and OR Tambo International Airport, under the respective Provincial Commissioners. Due to the provincial priorities, resources had been transferred away from the borders, without replacement, to local police stations in line with the provincial current fixed establishment. 

With regard to the scanners, most departments would like to have utilization of the scanners to ensure that what was declared and what they processed on paper was what was actually contained in cargo consignments. For this reason, the National Treasury had observed that while the cost of the cargo scanners would run into tens of millions of rands, the departments were working in silos, with each requesting a scanner for their own individual purposes. As a result, a scanner committee had been established that included all relevant departments and state-owned enterprises. This committee was later to have its mandate broadened to look at all infrastructure that had common or crosscutting utilization. This included the Integrated Justice System (IJS) and other projects. Treasury suggested that the scanner capabilities should be able to serve all departments’ interests and should be located at an agreed area where all departments could do their duties effectively. Treasury did not intend allocating funds to one department for scanners.

The Chairperson asked when the scanner committee had been established, because this was a new revelation.

Brig Chilembe replied that the committee had been established in the late 1990s.

Department of Public Works: Provision of infrastructure at Lebombo
Mr Nkosi Vilakazi, Acting DDG: Projects and Professional Services, DPW, said that in the context of the development of ports of entry, the strategic management of the border environment remained with the BCOCC. It was acknowledged that in 2007, SARS had assumed the leadership of the BCOCC.The recently redeveloped commercial port of entries were Lebombo, Skilpadhek, Vioolsdrift and Golela.

Looking at the background to Lebombo, the project to redevelop Lebombo was initiated to develop a one-stop port of entry facility to be shared by both SA and Mozambique. The scheme, or master plan, received concurrence as the preferred model by the BCOCC, led by SARS, on the advice of the international consultants under SARS. The structure was designed to be positioned on the borderline of the two countries, based on multi-level floors to cater for passenger cars, pedestrians and buses. The freight path was to cut across the high slope to lead to the freight clearing facility on the Mozambican side. These main features formed the original scope of work for the One Stop Border Post (OSBP). The DPW, as the infrastructure department, had developed the design further to the stage of contract documentation and costing.

Looking specifically at the Lebombo port of entry, the estimated cost of the structure, including the freight path, freight facility and railway station, had amounted to R1 473 million in 2008. The Department could not receive a funding commitment from the National Treasury to continue with the OSBP development. As a result, the DPW had opted to consult all stakeholders to address the need for a freight bypass road, and to convert the temporary unit structures into a permanent pedestrian facility. This work was to form part of Phase One of the development.

The bypass road development had been completed and handed over in April 2010. The government of Mozambique had equally completed their part of the bypass road. In discussions with BCOCC stakeholders, four inspection canopies had been built to enable inspection of trucks on a routine basis. These canopies had not been fitted with any ablution facilities, and the requirements for ablution became evident when the police used the canopies as permanent stations for searching vehicles. The development of ablution facilities and supporting infrastructure remained in the scope of the next development phases.

Mr Vilakazi said the building now known as the pedestrian facility was originally conceptualised as a temporary structure for operations when the construction of the OSBP commenced. When it was confirmed that the amount required would not be secured, the facility had been converted to process pedestrians on the basis of joint operations between SA and Mozambique. The layout and specifications had been well work-shopped with stakeholders and completed as such. An official request by the Accounting Officer of the DHA to reconfigure the internal layout had been received by the Department on 31 July 2012.

Looking at Phase Two of the future development and the scope of work for Lebombo, the following requests had been received from the BCOCC to address inadequacies:

  • Houses converted to offices;
  • Pedestrian facilities – rearrangement of existing balustrades, additional search tables for SAPS, counters, grid enhancement and windows for SAPS, refurbishment of holding facilities for SAPS;
  • External works – 20 parking bays for SAPS;
  • Ablution facilities for SAPS  at three canopies;
  • Further additional works – renovate three houses to accommodate SAPS, and an extension of the road shoulder to provide a search area for SAPS.

The proposed scope of works was estimated at R16.4 million, including fees, contingency and VAT.
However the actual cost would be determined upon approval of the project by the user department (BCOCC).

The project had been delayed and affected by the dispute between the DPW and the professional team appointed to provide professional services and manage the implementation of the project by the contractor. It must be noted that the DPW had motivated for the re-appointment of the consortium of consulting firms which had been involved in the design and implementation of the pedestrian facility and halted OSBP, as they were acquainted with site conditions, the services installed in the facility and had a corporate memory of the entire complex. Unfortunately, the dispute referred herein related to the previous projects managed by the consortium. He confirmed that the project planning phase would be concluded and advertised by end of July 2015. 

Mr Vilakazi said that as reported at the previous Committee meeting, the DPW -- in consultation with the BCOCC – had embarked on a feasibility study to develop OSBP master plans for the Maseru and Beit Bridge border posts, and Kosi Bay. He confirmed that preliminary master plan reports for Maseru and Beit Bridge border posts were available, which gave hope that the proposed master plan would be completed within the current financial year (2015/16) as planned. In every new construction or redevelopment of land, port of entry provisions were made for office accommodations based on the needs of the six user departments actively operational at the land ports of entry, including SAPS. Accommodation needs included office accommodation and holding cells in the operational area. The same applied to recently redeveloped border posts, such as Skilpadshek Land Port of Entry (LPOE), Golela LPOE and Vioolsdrift LPOE. The Department had been guided by a number of officials deployed at the land port of entry to determine how much space was required by each user department. 
With scanners at border posts, user departments submitted their approved needs to the DPW after obtaining support from the BMA/ BCOCC infrastructure committee and the Director Generals’ Technical Oversight Committee. The DPW then conducted a feasibility study/site clearance report. Once the report was finalised, it was presented to the user departments for them to confirm the best option suited to their approved needs. The DPW then constructed platforms, scanner power points and wire-ways for related services. The user departments thereafter sourced, mounted and connected the scanners to the newly constructed platforms and power points. In other words, the DPW would only provide scanner platforms and power points to the scanner.

The Chairperson felt that the first SAPS presentation had been more of a conceptualisation of what would take place in the border environment, but more needed to go into the policy and planning. However, the Committee had taken note of what had been conceptualised. He asked if SAPS had measures in place to ensure that all people in SA were and felt safe in the border environment in the interim, before the BMA was formally launched. He asked how the BCOCC would be addressed if it was not working in terms of coordination. After visiting the border post, the Committee had seen that there was a dire need for a scanner, and this had been indicated in the Committee’s oversight report. What had been done on the matter since the report was adopted?   

Lt Gen Sithole responded that the interim would be treated as a pilot process because at the end of the interim, SAPS needed to look at the report in terms of what was feasible and what was not. It was proposed there should be no tampering with functional mandates, but functioning should be according to the BMA mandate. The public should not suffer. It was still being suggested that the DHA should be the lead agency for mobilising all other departments. It was not suggested that legislation be changed during the interim phase, because once legislation was changed, it became long-term and one could not turn back. It was suggested that during the interim there would be technological interfacing. The idea was not to look at any constitutional matters either, but to focus on the feasibility analysis and take issues from there. A scanner committee had been established within the BMA framework after a clear directive had been given. The scanner had been escalated to be part of the master plan of the BCOCC. SAPS wanted to approach Treasury shortly to acquire the scanner, with this communicated to the DPW as well. He would come back to the Committee with progress on this matter.    

Brig Chilembe commented that the United Kingdom had failed to achieve its objective, which was to control illegal immigrants and goods. Their departments could not be coordinated, so the idea was to go back to square one.  

The Chairperson asked if the problem was more that the UK had created a bigger bureaucracy, instead of functional units.

Brig Chilembe indicated that this was correct.   

Ms M Mmola (ANC) asked SAPS to define its operational role and indicate its readiness to partake in the interim arrangements for the next two years with Operation Pyramid. She was disturbed by the DPW presentation because the photos had looked good, but when the Committee had visited, the facilities were a mess. What had the Department done since the Committee visited? Why was a contractor being appointed only now?

Brig Chilembe responded that Operation Pyramid was led by the SANDF, while the other departments, such as Agriculture and Health, would be coordinated.

Ms M Molebatsi (ANC) said that while listening to the presentation, she was picturing two SAPS – one was at the border and the other was the management currently sitting in front of Members, and the two were not talking to each other. Why were SAPS the only ones to pay for their accommodation, while the other departments were not?   

Lt Gen Sithole responded that the border policing of SA and Mozambique was not on par with each other and sometimes, even if there was agreement, the other country would take its own decisions. There were bilateral structures where inter-country issues were raised for correction, but the SAPS was speaking with one national voice. Border policing was a national competence.

SAPS members were paying for accommodation due to an internal subsidy arrangement which related to barracks accommodation, when the barracks were built by SAPS. At a multi-disciplinary level, matters became broader. This aspect had been presented to the national management forum, where the matter would be taken up with the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) and soon these members would no longer be paying for these particular barracks. The matter would be treated with speed so that Members did not find the same situation should they visit the area again.       

Mr Ramatlakane said that this was a very complex matter. In 2009, the President had given an order about what should happen, but there had been problems in getting the money. In terms of implementation, who was actually giving the President the back hand by not implementing the plans – was it Treasury? He could not understand how there had been a tender when the outcomes of the investigation still needed to be received. If there was problem in implementing the decision, innovative management spoke to holding arrangements within the resources that were already there, in order for the border to be effectively managed. What constituted this holding arrangement to ensure the work continued to happen effectively?

Ms L Mabija (ANC) said that the DPW presentation had made reference to disputes as part of the delaying factors, and she wanted to know the precise nature of these disputes. The Committee needed to know the causes of delays. What were the causes of delays hindering progress?

Mr Maake thought the way the BMA had been explained meant that it would never happen, as it was impractical and required constitutional change - if the BMA was given the right to control all other departments, this would be unconstitutional. He only saw problems, with no ideas on how they could be solved. His feeling was that people were afraid to tell the President that the BMA could not be implemented as it was.

Mr Twala agreed fully with the sentiments expressed by Mr Maake. The BMA was just not practical – departments had to look again at their responsibilities in terms of border management and security and channel them to the task at hand. With the current BMA proposal there were challenges of constitutionality, mandate and authority, which led him to believe that maybe the concept had not been properly thought through. Perhaps departments needed to be open and frank with the President, and say that he may have had a noble idea but in the real world, it was impractical.

The Chairperson reminded Members that the DHA was lead the Department on the BMA, and not SAPS. SAPS was present for Members to get an understanding of how it foresaw its role compared to its current role because at the end of the day, an effective border policing scenario needed to be established. Both presently and in the future, SAPS had a role to play. 

Lt Gen Sithole answered that SAPS was further from the President than the Committee was. It was important to inform the Committee of what worked, and what did not. Oversight capacity needed to be developed within Home Affairs, and although this was a massive mandate, it was not impossible. A report following the interim process could be provided to the Committee to give everyone a better picture, because this report would be the deciding factor. The Committee could make recommendations from there on whether the concept should continue or not.    

Mr P Groenewald (FF+) asked a general question, which he felt was of importance for SA. He referred to the departure of the President of Sudan, Mr Omar al-Bashir, from Waterkloof Air Force Base despite a court order after the International Criminal Court sought his arrest on Monday, and asked whether there had been any involvement by the police or any other department as far as control at the Base was concerned. Was the Base seen as a port of entry, or was it purely and totally controlled by the SANDF? He wanted to know if there were other departments responsible for entering through Waterkloof.

In one of the SAPS presentations, it had been stated that one of the challenges was that SAPS had tended to neglect the border environment and had not put its needs as a priority because it was of the opinion that border specific needs were catered for by the DPW capital budget – was this correct to say? This meant that SAPS did not see the border environment as important. He asked how many support staff were, or were going to be, employed in the office of the project manager and what the cost would be.      

The Chairperson again reminded Members that some of the questions should be directed to the DHA, as it was the lead department and was responsible for the project office.

Lt Gen Sithole indicated that Waterkloof Base was under the responsibility of the Department of Defence, but from time to time the Minister of Home Affairs would declare any area a port of entry for a particular period of time, including Waterkloof Base. Once an area was deemed a port of entry, responsible stakeholders worked together with Defence. During the time of the al-Bashir incident, Waterkloof was deemed a port of entry – this was as far as he could take it. Border security was high priority to SAPS and the National Commissioner, as it was part of the national security strategy. Border policing was a complex and diverse competence, but all divisions which required capital assets to function remained a national competence. He had thought the priority of the provinces was combating crime, more than border policing, but this had been corrected because border policing was now a national competence. Constant engagement was needed to talk to operational impact. 

Brig Chilembe added the BMA could respond itself on the number of support staff in the project manager’s office. The officials who were there had been transferred from SARS.  

Mr Groenewald wanted to know the number of people.  

Brig Chilembe could not confirm the total number, but around 80 people had been transferred from the SARS project and others had been seconded from other departments to assist. The departments themselves were paying the employees to perform these functions.  

Mr Z Mbhele (DA) found that a lot of the problems stemmed from the BCOCC failing to operate optimally – if the BCOCC was much more effective, the need for the BMA would not even have arisen because coordination and transversal management would just flow, and all the involved agencies would cooperate as they should to ensure management of the border was up to scratch. This was a big area for the Committee to drill down into. The fact that SAPS had assumed the DPW would make certain provisions also spoke to the BCOCC’s failure, because the assumptions had been communicated at the BCOCC level, and the DPW could very early on have clarified matters and issues could have been worked out from there. Current problems and gaps spoke to the problems of the BCOCC. Shortcomings in the BCOCC had been identified by the Auditor-General back in 2008. He asked SAPS to identify the ranks of the personnel representing SAPS in the BCOCC – did these personnel have decision-making capabilities, or hold enough weight so that things actually happened at the BCOCC for implementation? It was important to get the BCOCC working even if the BMA was up and running, because it was important to sort out systemic issues and structural weaknesses, as problems could easily be replicated in the BMA. There had been discrepancies between what Members had heard on their oversight visit to Lebombo and what had been stated in the DPW presentation -- for example, with accommodation. Was the discrepancy just that there were not enough rooms in the 80-room facility?    

Lt Gen Sithole replied that the BCOCC did not have decision-making powers, but was a coordinating and mobilising committee. Decision-making took place at a higher level of the committee – the Inter-Agency Clearing Forum (IACF) - where all the DGs sat and where decisions were taken for the BCOCC to operationalise. The structure cascaded down to the provinces. SAPS was of the belief that members were a bit reluctant to occupy the rooms as a result of the payment issue, but the DPW had done its job. SAPS would check the extent to which the rooms were occupied themselves, and look at the dynamics as to why members were not going into the rooms. The other aspect to be addressed was the transport – there was a provision for transport between home and work, but the situation would be followed up as a matter of urgency and feedback would be provided to the Committee.       

Ms D Kohler Barnard (DA) noted that Members had been told, at the Lebombo border post, that SAPS members had asked for additional staff over the festive season, when there were queues and massive delays, but additional human resources had not been provided, it was said, due to insufficient funds. The provincial SAPS individually seemed to be taking these decisions so what was being done, where borders were treated as “Cinderella postings.” The Auditor-General’s report had found the borders to be corrupted, under-resourced and under-staffed, and this was still the case. Every one of the presentations harked back to the mists of time. It was known that not every truck could be checked and this allowed for the entry of drugs, counterfeit goods and even children tucked into the back of a truck. Did the new visa regulations relate to the border posts, or only to airports? She was interested if tourism from SA’s neighbouring countries would be destroyed too. She could not believe that the DPW had had the absolute audacity to present the photos it did on the border posts – had the Department even been to the posts? Ceilings were collapsing because of the air conditioning units, offices were empty and the windows were smashed because there were no door-stops preventing the doors from slamming closed. The place was an absolute wreck, yet the Department had shown the Committee lovely, shiny pictures – the Committee could not be fooled because they had been there. Everything about the project spoke to a lack of leadership – no one was taking control and there was no forward-planning. The gate had not been able to close, so there were no border posts stopping Mozambicans from strolling straight into SA.
Brig. Chilembe said that there had been challenges with the festive season operations, as the function was then under the provinces. However, this function was now national, and SAPS would specifically be able to look into overtime issues. When Home Affairs made a decision on regulations or passport control instructions, it was sent to SAPS to read and understand. 

Ms Kohler Barnard asked if it was clear that every child coming into SA needed an unabridged birth certificate.

Brig Chilembe confirmed this was the instruction which had come to the Department. Members on the ground had also been informed about the instructions.   

Mr Vilakazi agreed that there had been latent defects in the work done. He apologised that these had not been included, as it was not intended to do any harm. When the contract was concluded, an investigation had been started. Usually there was a period of six months after a contract expired, where issues were inspected to assess if there were any latent defects. DPW had gone to the site and picked up the issues of leaks in the roof and the dripping of the air conditioning, which had affected the roof panels. The Department had a RAMP programme to fix these defects. The problems not only needed to be fixed, but the Department also needed to deal with the designers and engineers, so that the fault was established as either a problem of design or implementation. The current issues were with the air conditioning, doors and waterproofing. The pictures in the presentation had been included to give Members an idea of what had been done.      

Ms Kohler Barnard asked for an update on the gate, where the motor was apparently too small and had blown up.

Mr Vilakazi responded that he would have to check if the motor could be included in the RAMP, or if it would need to be put into a new contract. He would come back to the Committee on this issue. 

Ms Molebatsi asked where the initial contractor was and if he had been paid for this shabby deal.

Mr Vilakazi replied that the phase one contract had been completed and paid for. Once a contract was complete, the Department then checked for latent defects and an investigation would ensue into who was at fault between the contractor who did the actual work, or the designer. 

The Chairperson highlighted that it was envisaged that the BMA would be implemented in 2016/17 in terms of financial provisions, and it would be good for the Committee to get regular progress during the test phase as well as the concerns of SAPS in terms of viability, as this was critical for effective monitoring going forward. With Operation Fiela, around 60 to 70% of the people arrested had been foreigners without the necessary documentation. He asked if SAPS thought border management was more effective now than it had been at the beginning of the year in terms of the measures and systems in place.  

Lt Gen Sithole responded that one of the prerequisites was to deal with the capacity shortage, and the National Commissioner wanted all posts to be filled, with crime intelligence capacity then expanded down to the cluster level, for functions of crime statistics and research to be beefed up at each station. Nationally, crime statistics and research took over the function of crime pattern and hot spot analysis, and this increased the capacity of intelligence. Within Operation Fiela, there was an intelligence team responsible for generating intelligence and leading the operation. This intelligence capacity was also working together with National Intelligence Coordinating Committee (NICOC) to enhance the intelligence capacity.

Mr Twala said that the 2008 Auditor-General’s report had alluded to failures in relation to intelligence gathering along the border post. He raised this in view of what the Committee had observed at Lebombo. A few kilometres from the border post, there had been a gaping hole of about 400m in the fence – was this problem ever brought to the attention of SAPS? Did SAPS notify the DPW of the problem? Which party was supposed to ensure this gap was closed?

Lt Gen Sithole explained that as part of their modus operandi, criminals cut the fence deliberately. The DPW needed to start its own processes. SAPS emphasised the urgency, but the information was generated continuously and shared. 

Ms Molebatsi asked about SAPS’s readiness to launch Operation Pyramid in Skukuza in two days’ time.

Lt Gen Sithole said intelligence gathering was first done before an assessment could be made about readiness. The operational concept was also defined by looking at deployment and stakeholder deployment requirements, and the modus operandi to focus on. Through all these process, Operation Pyramid had been declared ready.  

Mr Mbhele felt there might be a need for an interdepartmental committee at provincial level, over and above the BCOCC, to beef up matters in this environment, especially with cross-border crime. This was something which had come up during the Committee’s oversight visit to Mpumalanga. Had this issue ever come up on the radar of SAPS management, or was it something which would be considered as something Mpumalanga might need? Another key aspect was actual cross-border policing, because there was a strong suggestion that the nature of the cross-border crime was syndicate-driven and linked to rhino poaching, cigarettes and firearms, for example. The Committee had long been concerned with the state of crime intelligence – was crime intelligence working in the cross-border environment, and was it ready for the new regime of coordination of agents in the environment, whether in the BMA or BCOCC? 

Lt Gen Sithole said the issue of border intelligence was actually looked into collectively by SAPS, NICOC and Defence Intelligence on a daily basis. After each and every intelligence report was produced, SAPS looked at which areas required the attention of other government departments, and the areas were then referred to the departments immediately. Within the national crime prevention strategy, the National Joint Operational and Intelligence Structure (NATJOINTS) had been established as part of operationalisation. These NATJOINTS structures had been cascaded down to the provinces. One of the top priorities and mandates of NATJOINTS was border security, which was linked to transnational crime in the national crime prevention strategy. Provinces had the prerogative, in NATJOINTS, to put any such structure dedicated to border management. However, a duplication of structures needed to be avoided at all costs, because too many structures meant there were too many meetings instead of using the time to fight criminals. It would not be wrong to put structures in the provinces, but they could not be detached from NATJOINTS. NICOC and crime intelligence generated intelligence products for cross-border policing. There were also inter-country intelligence products and inter-country bilaterals, where cross border operations were planned for priority crimes. Specific crimes came up in the organised crime threat analysis, which used unconventional policing methods and approaches involving covert operations. There was also rural safety, with specific dedicated police stations attached to borders – these stations had specific instructions which had been beefed up to interact with other border policing operators like the SANDF. Intelligence was key, and this capacity had been enhanced.

Ms Kohler Barnard was concerned that much of what the Committee had heard was a decade old. Her information, at the time it had been realised that having SAPS police the borders was catastrophic, and the SANDF was back where it should be, was that the barracks had been stripped and trashed. Everything had been ripped out of the walls -- from the stoves and fridges, to the toilets -- and she was interested in who footed the bill for the renovations which the SANDF had taken back over. Had anyone been arrested in this regard? She got the sense that there had almost been a throwing in of the towel in terms of border management because of backlogs, jams and difficulty of coordinating with the different departments. She was very concerned that some bright spark had decided that Mozambique should pay for a part of a SA border post – had it happened anywhere else in the world, where there was another country coming in to build infrastructure jointly at the border? She could not see this happening, or how it could be allowed to happen. She sought more information on this.

She was concerned about the trains. The Committee had been told a few years ago that the trains were stopped, civilians would get off, but there were no SAPS personnel to search the trains themselves. Everything was flowing in, day and night, in and out of the country with no one knowing because there were no personnel to search the trains. She did not understand how there was no overall control over what the provinces were doing in terms of the personnel – the borders seemed to be treated as an optional extra. She wanted to know the figure of SAPS members at the border posts and how many dog-handlers they had. She knew the numbers there were supposed to be, but it seemed as if there was a minuscule number of members guarding the borders which everyone knew were so porous, they might not even exist.           

Lt Gen Sithole said that if there was a transfer, the SAPS took the burden and it would go on a re-budgeting process to review resources. Anything the SANDF inherited it would have to foot the bill for, in terms of the current principle. With joint operations with other countries, both countries footed the bill through resource integration. The same principle had been tried in the border environment, and unfortunately it had not worked with Mozambique but with other countries it did work, like with Lesotho, Swaziland, and Namibia. With the trains, the railway establishment was newly introduced after a work study had been completed. The capacity of the unit was starting to be increased to ensure all trains were searched in terms of the mandate of the unit, which fell under Visible Policing. Border policing was now a national competency and not a provincial one, because no province could transfer a border policing member from the border to any other place, even though it had happened. Borders thus suffered, but the national Department was addressing where there were capacity issues, while in some areas the issue had already been addressed.

Brig Chilembe added that an audit had been conducted when the SAPS bases were handed over to the SANDF.

Ms Kohler Barnard asked if this meant the barracks were pristine and nothing had to be replaced or renovated. If renovations had been done, what had it cost the taxpayer?

Brig Chilembe said it was obvious that some things might have been broken, but an audit had been done when SANDF took the facilities over and had to deal with issues such as a painting being broken. With the trains, he understood that all cross-border trains had been stopped, and no passenger trains left the country. The only trains were part of Operation Fiela, and managed by SAPS with the Mozambican police. 

Ms Kohler Barnard was fully aware that the trains had stopped, but her question was if SAPS was now searching every single train that left and came in.

Brig Chilembe explained that there were no facilities for trains at the border. They went to the nearest station where searching was done by the local police stations.

Ms Kohler Barnard felt as if the Department was dancing around the answer to her question. She wanted to know if the passenger and goods trains were searched when people got off – this was a “yes” or “no.”

Lt Gen Sithole answered that the current national crime combating instruction that went to the railway component meant that all trains were searched.

Ms Kohler Barnard said that that might be the order, but the searching was patently not done and the Department was dancing around the Committee again.

Lt Gen Sithole responded that the search function occurred in the railway division under the Visible Policing (VISPOL) division and border operation and response. The capacity for searching trains was provided within the railway component, and it was still applicable.

Mr Ramatlakane had not received a reply to his question about the disputed tenders. He wanted to know exactly what the Department was going on tender for. He asked if the facility for construction was on the SA side of the border, or was a portion of the asset on the other side of the boundary. He agreed that the Committee should be told about what had worked and what had not, but Lt Gen Sithole had passed the buck to say the Committee should inform the President about what was not working. There was a standing decision, but were the problems being communicated? The Committee would also need to make recommendations, but SAPS should assist by informing the Committee about what had been done over the last three years and if inter-governmental relationships were improving. Members had just heard that Treasury was not paying, which may indicate that they had thought it was not the best option.     

Mr Vilakazi said the dispute had arisen because of a disagreement over payment between the original and reduced scope, and the monies paid for claims. The matter had then been sent for investigation towards the end of 2013, where the DPW had still awaited a final report to rule on the matter. The nature of the dispute was not on the procurement process, but more on the actual work done compared to the amount being claimed from DPW by the service provider. It had not been anticipated that the investigation would take this long and there was pressure from clients, like SAPS, to provide services. The Department would proceed with the recommendations from the investigation once they were received, but at this point there was no final report. 

Mr Twala questioned the protocols of Parliament and what should have happened after SONA, when the President decided that the BMA should be implemented. What were the implications of SONA? What ought to have followed naturally to aid this process? Was Parliament and the Committee not supposed to be involved in the crafting of the way forward? From where he was sitting, the President had made the statement and everyone had then taken it as law to do what the President alluded to without proper consideration of the inherent challenges. Against this backdrop, what was the next port of call in relation to the challenges, which appeared to be endemic?

Lt Gen Sithole said that the SAPS would appreciate it if the Committee would talk to feasibility of the concept. It would not be correct to give a report stating that the process would not work simply because constant progress reports had not been presented to the Committee. The end of the interim period had not yet been reached, so he suggested the process of the interim period be allowed to finish and then an open and honest report could be compiled. More engagement was also needed with the DHA. Once these processes were completed, the Committee would also be in a better position to assess feasibility.

Ms Kohler Barnard noted that 18 officials had been arrested for corruption in 12 cases at the various ports of entry – was this over a ten year period, or when had the arrests taken place? What had happened with these officials, of which seven were from SAPS, seven from Home Affairs, one from SARS and three civilians – were these officials just recycled and placed elsewhere, or were they actually arrested, fired and jailed?

Lt Gen Sithole said a report could be provided to the Committee, but when someone committed a crime, he or she was arrested and charged.

Mr Twala repeated his earlier question: if the DPW was alerted to a hole in the border fence, what did it do if it received this information?

Mr Vilakazi was not sure, so he would have to check to provide the Committee with factual information.

Ms Molebatsi asked for a commitment on when the Lebombo border would have an up-and-running ablution facility.  

Mr Vilakazi answered that ablutions were part of the scope of other things which needed to be included for tender, but the plan was to get it done by April 2016.

Ms Molebatsi questioned if the there would be only one toilet at the border in the meantime.

Mr Vilakazi said the Department could look into interim measures.

Mr Ramatlakane felt that SAPS knew what was happening, but the deficiencies in its searching capacity was contributing to not nipping the problems in the bud. An example was car hijacking and cars which disappeared over the borders. A former Member of Parliament had been locked in a boot for five hours before being thrown out of his car, and up until today there was no sign of the car which had left over the border. What would it take, in the current environment, to actually build capacity to ensure cross-border organised crime was broken down, as this was very worrying? Criminals seemed to be out-planning those fighting crime. What was it that needed to be done? Was it a question of human capacity and resourcing? He asked the DPW if the facility was located 100% on South African soil, or if it was part of the bordering country. The question had not been answered in a previous round, and he needed to understand it in terms of the protocol of donations. He agreed that it was best that the Committee received regular reports to assess matters.  

Mr Vilakazi said that the border post was on SA soil. 

Lt Gen Sithole said that the healing of a wound depended on the damage inflicted. The National Commissioner had taken major steps to organise the police and continuously capacitate. Another challenge was to stay on top of the current modus operandi, because criminals were advancing their methods. From time to time, SAPS’s capacity had to be uplifted from the current modus operandi because they were becoming sophisticated, and this required SAPS’s crime intelligence to be constantly upgraded. This was especially so at the borders. Corruption was one of the challenges which affected policing from time to time, but it was being addressed drastically as a high priority. There had also been a reorganisation of the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigations (DPCI) as organised crime was key on the frontline, so border-related crime needed to be addressed collaboratively with the DPCI to intensify the fight against syndicates. Criminals were creative and developed new methods daily, but the SAPS tried to stay constantly on top of these developments.

Brig Chilembe added that stolen and hijacked vehicles were one of the annual performance objectives of the border policing component. The Lebombo border post was arresting more than any other unit with regard to stolen and hijacked vehicles. Various methods were used. For example, all submitted vehicles were interfaced with the movement control system of Home Affairs so that if a vehicle was stolen or hijacked and someone tried to move through the border, there would be a hit to which SAPS would react. Currently, people were not stealing cars like in the past, but now there were financed vehicles which people bought legally but were taken out of the country and reported stolen. SAPS had a strategy with the banking institutions and the SA Risk Banking Information Centre (SABRIC), so that when someone arrived at a port of entry with a vehicle which had been financed, the vehicle was checked in the system as to whom it belonged. The individual would then be asked for documents of the vehicle, as the neighbouring countries required them. The information provided by the banks would enable one to know if the vehicle was being paid for. If a car was hijacked and reported as such to a police station, the information of the car would be recorded on the case administration system (CAS) and the vehicle would be identified as a possible sought vehicle at the port of entry. Criminals changed number plates once a car was stolen, so police members needed to open the bonnet of the car to check engine numbers, etc. Some of the banks were cooperative, while others were not coming to the party, but SAPS made use of SABRIC.         

Mr Maake was a bit confused. He understood that there were no passenger trains which passed through the border posts, but dropped people someone on their way to Mozambique. This meant the searching of the passenger train did not occur at the border post, but should occur along the route before reaching the border.

Lt Gen Sithole said the mandate to search trains was around the country. Intelligence dictated when there should be specific organised searches.  

Ms Kohler Barnard wanted to know the status of the 18 officials arrested for corruption at the various points of entry – when had these arrests taken place? What had happened to these officials since? 

Brig. Chilembe did not have the exact numbers with him, but immigration and customs officers had been arrested, with members of SAPS.  

Ms Kohler Barnard knew the members had been arrested, but wanted to know if they were still in the SAPS or in jail. What had happened, because so many times members were simply transferred? Surely it was not too much to ask what had happened with these members?  

The Chairperson said SAPS should provide the information in writing before Wednesday next week.

Ms Molebatsi knew of a very big police station in Gauteng which had been without water on Thursday and Friday last week. When she had tried to find out the reason she had been told it was the responsibility of the DPW. She sought clarification on this.

Mr Vilakazi said that there were emergency services, where SAPS could immediately log a call for the DPW to render the service, because Public Works needed to provide a functional facility. In this specific case, he would have to check if a call had been logged.

Ms Molebatsi said the DPW had not paid the water account and so the water had been disconnected.

Lt Gen Nhlanhla Mkhwanazi, SAPS Divisional Commissioner: Facility Management, added that the issue which had arisen from the transfer of facilities and functions from the North West province to Gauteng had been resolved. There had been confusion as to which province was paying for the account, with the one assuming the other was paying.  
Chairperson's closing comments
The Chairperson said the BMA would be established in 2016/17. The Committee had to ensure the role of the SAPS was monitored and overseen, so it was critical at the end of the pilot phase to get a full briefing on it to know where matters stood. The Committee would also need to liaise with the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in the coming term, to get an indication of the progress and issues for monitoring from their side. A replication of the problems at the BCOCC was not needed, and international examples also needed to be followed. There were still a lot of issues outstanding with the monitoring of the border posts and the Committee Content Adviser and the research team might need to develop a border post monitoring tool for the Committee, similar to what was used at police stations, because the Committee was visiting the Free State in the third week of July, so all the issues on the table needed to be tested. Border control and policing would remain a focus of the Committee for the remaining term in Parliament, so it would be useful if there was a scientific tool to look at all issues and those envisaged in the BMA environment.

It was critical for the DPW to study the Committee report on its oversight visit to Lebombo to ensure the recommendations were adhered to. It was unacceptable for the DPW to say that matters were aimed to be sorted out only next year, when the Committee had observed the challenges at the beginning of the current year already. SAPS members were delivering a service for the country and could not be treated in this manner, so there needed to be urgency. It was totally unacceptable that DPW had not arrived for the presentation it was meant to have delivered to the Committee last week already, on the modernisation of the Criminal Justice System/Integrated Justice System. Not even an apology had been tendered for not having the presentation. This would have to be presented to the Committee next week, because SAPS was a very large client of thr DPW. SAPS were to provide any outstanding answers in writing to the Committee.

Next week on Wednesday, SAPS would brief the Committee on its proclamations since last year, and the Civilian Secretariat for Police and Independent Police Investigative Directorate would follow up on the issue of vetting.

The meeting was adjourned.                                                                                                    

Share this page: