New Border Management Authority (BMA) is a Boost for SA’s Security and Development

By Fiona Wakelin

In his weekly letter penned to the nation, dated October 9, His Excellency Ramaphosa focused on border security, reminding us that our land border is over 4,800 km long and is shared with six countries with 53 land ports of entry, 11 international airports and eight sea ports. In the first week of October, South Africa’s first integrated, unified Border Management Authority (BMA) was launched to secure our borders, which are both historical and contemporary.

During the apartheid era, there was a disregard for the sovereignty of neighbouring countries with illegal cross-border raids and exploitation of labour from the region; it was the priority of the democratic government elected in 1994 to progressively reform the border management and migration regime, not just in the interests of economic growth and development, but also to reflect the broader values of the new state.

“The democratic government has worked to uphold the right of citizens to freedom of movement and residence, as well as the rights of refugees and asylum-seekers under international conventions. It also sought to deepen trade and investment between South Africa and other Southern African countries, and contribute to the political and economic integration of the African continent. “Over time, however, the complexities of border management have resulted in an uncoordinated approach by the various authorities. One of the challenges has been the sheer number of government departments and entities involved in this work. The absence of a central authority led to fragmentation of efforts and made it difficult to enforce accountability. This in turn rendered our borders vulnerable” – H.E. Ramaphosa.

The situation has been made more complicated because South Africa has become an important transit route for organised criminal networks involved in human trafficking, drugs and small arms smuggling, attracting economic migrants who are undocumented, especially from the SADC region. “The proliferation of cross-border crime, illicit trade and illegal migration as a result of porous borders presents a serious threat to our national security and economy. It also places strain on already stretched resources and public services, and fuels social instability. We have, in recent times, seen anti-foreigner sentiment resulting in acts of violence and harassment.”

“As a country, we must condemn without reservation all acts of violence against foreign nationals, regardless of their immigration status, and work together to prevent such acts. At the same time, we must recognise that South Africans are justifiably concerned about illegal migration.” Like any sovereign nation, we have the right to guarantee the integrity of our borders and provide that all who reside in our borders have a legal right to be here. “Those who have sought refuge in South Africa or wish to live and work here are subject to immigration regulations and must adhere to the country’s laws,” – President Ramaphosa.

Having explained this complex situation, His Excellency referred to the BMA as the third armed service in South Africa after the South African Defence National Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service (SAPS). “With this new structure in place, we will also be able to better prevent the illegal importation and exit of goods, curb illegal migration and human smuggling, and combat cross-border crime. The BMA will take on the work of several other departments and agencies and is already working with the South African Revenue Service, SAPS and SANDF to integrate border management functions.”

“The establishment of the BMA is a significant step towards safer communities, better law enforcement and the growth of our economy through greater trade with our neighbours. Ensuring our borders are well-managed and well-protected is key to the security and development of our country,” – H.E. Ramaphosa.

Read The October Edition Here: