The newly-formed Border Management Authority (BMA) will be deploying its first cohort of 200 guards to vulnerable border posts this week.

Speaking to ENCA, Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi said that the guards will be deployed on 14 July.

South Africa’s new border management regulations were signed into law by president Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020. The BMA was established as a national public entity, reporting to the minister of Home Affairs.

Unlike the current system, which relies on a combination of over seven different departments – including SARS, the SAPS, and the SANDF – the new authority will employ its own guards to control and patrol the borders.

According to Motsoaledi, the commissioner of the BMA has the same authority as the commissioner of police, but the role is exclusively focused on the country’s borders.

These guards are safety staff who will be deployed to vulnerable border posts. Their duties include:

  • Attending the on and off-duty parades and being stationed as per deployment schedule.
  • Processing proactive and responsive complaint attendances.
  • Reporting on arrested illegal foreigners held in the temporary holding cells.
  • Safeguarding and controlling exhibits/evidence found to be handed over to other agencies.
  • Conducting arrests of illegal foreigners/ detainees to be transferred to the nearest ports of entry or police station for further handling.
  • Gathering information for compiled reports as required by higher authority.

Motsoaledi confirmed that the guards will also be responsible for controls on the movement of goods and people, with a specific focus on preventing illegal foreigners from entering the country. This will include:

  • Searching people, luggage and vehicles as per the relevant regulations on the planned roadblock/checkpoint operations in the port of entry and the vulnerable areas on the borderline.
  • Performing borderline duties, traffic checkpoint operations and other law enforcement duties at outer/inner perimeter areas.
  • Reporting on all illegal movement of people and goods.
  • Maintaining surveillance from covert positions at or near the international borders.

The minister said the new guards will also be responsible for conducting vehicle and foot patrols. and reporting on international visitors, travellers and shoppers for monitoring purposes.

Focus areas

South Africa’s land borderline is 4,772km long. This has been divided into 10 segments.

The biggest segment – a 1,500km border between South Africa and Botswana – will not have any new guards deployed there, as this stretch experiences few problems, the minister said. The 950km segment between South Africa and Namibia also experiences few troubles.

However, the eastern side of the country has some very specific border areas that are especially problematic, he said. This includes a relatively small 76km stretch of border between KwaZulu Natal and Mozambique, through which many stolen vehicles are smuggled out of the country.

This segment and four others have been identified as the most vulnerable borderlines that require particular focus by the BMA guards.

Motsoaledi noted that home affairs and its staff are often vulnerable to corruption, but said that the new border guards have been vetted, and will periodically undergo lifestyle audits to ensure behaviour remains above board.

He said the guards have been fully vetted and oriented by all government departments that have a hand in border control – including the SANDF, the Department of Health and the South African Revenue Service.

Read: South Africa trials new border system