Deployment of first group of Border Management Authority Border Guards – Aaron Motsoaledi – POLITICS | Politicsweb
Deployment of first group of Border Management Authority Border Guards – Aaron Motsoaledi
Aaron Motsoaledi |
15 July 2022
Minister says they are trying to build a better border management authority with this group of young men and women
Speech delivered by Home Affairs Minister, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, on the occasion of the deployment of the first group of Border Management Authority Border Guards at the Beitbridge Port of Entry, in Limpopo, on 14 July 2022
15 July 2022
Programme Director and Head of Communications in the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Bongi Gwala
My colleague, Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, Mr Njabulo Nzuza
Senior traditional leader, Chief Mmbangiseni Manenzhe
Cllr Anderson Mudungu, Acting Executive Mayor of the Vhembe District Municipality and his team
Cllr Godfrey Mawela, Mayor of the Musina Local Municipality and his team
Home Affairs Director General, Mr Tommy Makhode and his team.
Border Management Authority Commissioner, Dr Mike Masiapato, two Deputy Commissioners, Major General Chilembe for Operations, Mme Jane Thupana for Corporate Services and the BMA team
Senior government officials
The inaugural members of the Border Guard
Members of the media
Ladies and gentlemen
Thank you very much for joining us today on this auspicious day as we seek to protect our sovereignty in the interest of the people of South Africa and the world.
Fellow South Africans, here they are. They are the first cohort of young men and women who have undergone a rigorous selection process that included interviews, physical training and orientation, who will serve as the Border Guard.
We are here today to officially deploy the Border Guards within the vulnerable segments of the border line for law enforcement purposes.
We are trying to build a better border management authority with this group of young men and women who heeded the call to serve in a manner that enables our country to pursue its policies.
Just last month, I told Parliament that the Department is embracing new ways of doing things. Of course many did not believe us. Today is another example of implementing this commitment which we are definitely going to keep.
In July 2020, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the following when signing the Border Management Authority Act;
“The legislation therefore contributes to the security of the country and the integrity and ease of trade and the general movement of persons and goods in and out of the country.”
With those words, the President outlined what the Border Management Authority is all about.
The BMA Act ushered in a series of events that started out as a trickle before gathering momentum to be like a strong current of the mighty Limpopo River, on whose banks we stand today.
The trickle was the appointment of the Commissioner and two Deputy Commissioners in November 2021, setting us on a path towards a single command and control environment in our Ports of Entry.
The Commissioner and the Deputy Commissioners hit the ground running and started the recruitment process of these young men and women who are our nation’s pride. Some of these recruits, standing in front of you today, come from border towns and villages, like here in Musina.
Parallel to the recruitment processes, the Commissioners are also busy with the work of ensuring that the Border Management Authority (BMA) is a standalone Schedule 3A entity responsible for the borders by 01 April 2023.
At the present moment, the BMA is incubated as a Branch in the Department of Home Affairs (DHA). The Commissioner, Dr Masiapato, is at the same level with the Commissioner of the SA Police Service. His job is here, at the borders and nowhere else. He is a Commissioner of borders.
By 01 April 2023, the BMA will move out of the DHA and be a Schedule 3A standalone entity responsible for our borders.
We as the DHA are working as a midwife to bring this new child into the world. The new child will soon be independent, taking responsibility for the borders of our country.
This process will see the number of Border Guards increase substantially as the BMA assumes responsibility of five streams of functions performed by various government departments at the border.
Let me explain further, the architecture of the BMA. Usually, when there is a function that needs coordination between departments, the President will appoint what is called an Inter-Ministerial Committee (IMC). This is a Committee of Ministers, established to coordinate that specific function. IMC are usually temporary and ad hoc.
Now we have a new IMC in the country that is appointed by an Act of Parliament. It is the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee on borders. I am the Chairperson of that committee which includes nine (09) other Ministers. They are;
the Minister of Defence;
the Minister of Police;
the Minister of State Security;
the Minister of Transport;
the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development
the Minister of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries;
the Minister of Trade, Industry and Competition;
the Minister of Health and;
the Minister of Finance.
These Ministers constitute the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee on borders which is a permanent statutory committee. It meets four times a year. This Committee has already met twice this year. The launch you are witnessing today, was discussed in that Committee. If you listen carefully to all the Ministers that I have mentioned, you’ll realise that they all play a role at the borders. Many of you ask for the Minister of Home Affairs when anything happens at the borders because you believe that the Minister of Home Affairs is responsible for everything that happens at the borders.
For instance, we are not responsible for customs. This is a responsibility of the SA Revenue Service which reports to the Minister of Finance.
When agricultural goods pass through here, we know nothing about which items are allowed in or not. The person who signs commitment with her colleagues internationally is the Minister of Agriculture, Land Reform and Rural Development.
During Covid-19, anything that went wrong on the health front, the Department of Home Affairs was blamed. Officials in Home Affairs don’t know much about which disease is acceptable and is to be allowed into the country. The officials who take temperature are from Port Health. They fall under the Minister of Health.
When buses are given cross-border licenses to transport people, that function is the responsibility of the Minister of Transport.
This means that the Commissioner and the two Deputy Commissioners will be responsible for the everyday operations at the borders. The policies will still come from the departments whose Ministers are part of the Committee on borders.
I acknowledge that the work ahead is much more than the one that has already been done. This is but just the beginning.
There is a Chinese proverb that says “a journey of a thousand miles starts with the first step”.
So, today we are just taking the first steps. We are left with 999 miles still to cover.
These Border Guards that we are deploying today are a third uniformed statutory force in law enforcement.
You are used to seeing the police as a statutory force and the soldiers as the other statutory force.
Today we are adding the Border Guards in that arsenal.
The most important weapon of these Border Guards we are unveiling today won’t be the guns they are carrying but their integrity.
There must be an exemplary way that distinguishes Border Guards from ordinary rascals who sell the country for a few pieces of silver.
Ladies and gentlemen, South Africa is not for sale.
We have listened to you Border Guards taking an Oath of Office, swearing to uphold the Constitution. The Constitution does not give rise to corruption. Corruption is done by human beings. If we do corruption, we are giving other people an impression that this country is ripe for the taking.
On the night of 15 June 2022, I was called to rush to the OR Tambo International Airport after some Pakistani nationals attempted to enter South Africa illegally through passages designed for fire hydrants. What I saw is not just an illegal entry into a country, but it is an invasion of a country. There is no country in the world that would allow such a thing to happen.
Two days ago, I had the honour of addressing this group of Border Guards in Pretoria during their passing out parade, symbolising the completion of their training.
I took them into confidence about what it means to don a Border Guard uniform and the expectations of the public from our front line protectors of our sovereignty.
I’ll repeat just a few comments that I made there.
Firstly, a Border Guard should be driven by an undying flame of national pride and the realisation that our country has got its sovereignty that must be guarded at all costs.
Secondly, I informed them and I’m doing so again today, that they are not deployed at the borders to stop people from coming into South Africa. They are there to insist, without any apology and without fear, favour and prejudice, that anybody entering South Africa must do so legally. If they happen to enter illegally, they must follow the United Nations Convention of 1951, or the United Nations Protocol on Refugees and Asylum Seekers of 1967, or the Organisation of African Union (now referred to as the African Union) Convention of 1969.
All those Conventions legally outline how people can move into other countries, even those who are running away. In South Africa, we ratified those Conventions in 1996. And in 1998, we domesticated those conventions via the Refugee Act of 1998. All those conventions outline what a person should do when entering another person’s country. We then have the Immigration Act of 2002. It outlines what you do when you want to visit, work, open a business or study in the country.
Anybody visiting South Africa must come in through the Ports of Entry where they will announce themselves, give their biometrics and give their reasons for coming to South Africa. That happens in every nation on earth. Why should South Africa be expected to act differently? We have 53 land Ports of Entry. Anyone of them can be used to enter South Africa lawfully.
The law outlines what needs to be done if people enter South Africa because they are running away. It says that they must announce themselves within five days at any of the five Refugee Reception centres in the country. We have one here in Musina. The biggest one is in Pretoria. The others are in Cape Town, Gqeberha and Ethekwini.
There is a belief that the country is up for the taking and anybody wishing to do what they are unable to do in other countries can simply come to South Africa and do it here.
I want to state here, unequivocally, that we will never allow that to continue in our country. And people must disabuse themselves from that type of belief and practice.
Just last week, a rich gentleman from Europe landed at one of our airports and demanded to enter South Africa illegally. This gentleman once came to South Africa an overstayed and was declared an undesirable person in terms of the Immigration Act (2002). He disobeyed an Act passed by Parliament. The Act says that if you want that status of being undesirable to be lifted, you need to apply to the Minister of Home Affairs and give reasons why you overstayed. If the Minister agrees with your reasons, then the undesirable status can be lifted.
This gentleman refused to apply. When Immigration officers rightly stopped him at the airport, he was angry and defiant. He boastfully told Immigration Officers that “the Minister is going to phone you and instruct you to allow me in”. What cheek!
Immigration officials were told that this gentleman was worth R750 million and should be allowed in.
Let’s make it clear that South Africa is not for sale, not for any amount.
This gentleman, who had such cheek to talk about a Cabinet Minister in such condescending terms, was returned to Europe, where he came from.
You will also recall that not so long ago, there was a Lithuanian actress who came to South Africa without any permit and demanded to enter the country. And only when she was refused entry, she remembered that there is war in the Ukraine and then claimed asylum. Of course she was allowed to come in because the law is very clear. It says, if you are going to apply for asylum, go and announce yourself at a Refugee Reception Centre within five days. This lady did not go there. She attended a party in Cape Town.
After the party was over, she needed to go back home. But we had kept her passport. She then went to court and claimed freedom of movement but the judge did not agree with her. We made her write a statement to apologise to the people of South Africa. We made her pay for all the money we spent on her case. And we declared, in her passport, that she is an undesirable person.
We are seeing a number of people who come to South Africa expecting to enter without following the laws. They believe that adherence to our laws is optional and only applies to some.
If we gave people that impression, I am announcing today that please disabuse yourself of that view. It was a wrong impression.
Those who think they can come and go as they wish without respecting the laws of the country which were passed by Parliament, are very misinformed. The issue of coming into a country with a passport is not a South Africa law, it is an international requirement.
So we are asking you Border Guards, please execute your duties with pride, integrity and without fear or favour. We will support you at all times.
And of course, we are going to be watching the Border Guards with a hawk’s eye because we understand that temptations can come with the job.
All the Border Guards that are standing in front of you were subjected to a lifestyle audit before their employment was finalised. If we find any inexplicable changes, they will be dismissed.
The employment of these Border Guards gives an opportunity of infusing a new culture at Home Affairs. A culture of serving with integrity, failing which, there will be repercussions.
And of course ladies and gentlemen, we are not going to deploy the Border Guards everywhere and nowhere. We have taken care to assess the border line and identified areas that are vulnerable. The land border line in South Africa is 4 773 kilometres. We have divided it into 10 segments. Not all the segments are problematic.
The biggest segment is between South Africa and Botswana. It is more than 1 500 kilometres long. There are no problems there. So we are not going to deploy there. We are monitoring it and we will act accordingly if any problems arise.
The next biggest segment is more than 960 kilometres long between us and Namibia. We are not experiencing problems there.
We have identified five segments that are problematic. That will be the border line around Beitbridge with Zimbabwe where we are. So are Lebombo and Khosi Bay with Mozambique and Maseru with Lesotho.
The segment around Khosi Bay is the smallest. Only 76 kilometres. That is where stolen cars from South Africa are taken through into the rest of the continent.
We are determined to make our borders less porous. There must be some semblance of normality that people must know, that they can be caught, be deported and declared undesirable.
To the Border Guards. You are the chosen ones. We are starting this journey with you. Everybody is going to be looking at you to see if it works. The task of restoring and rebuilding the integrity of our border line has fallen on your shoulders. Execute your job with pride.
Commissioner Masiapato and Deputy Commissioners Chilembe and Thupana, this is the end of the beginning. The real work of safeguarding our border starts in earnest today.
Let us work on it.
Thank you very much.
Issued by Department of Home Affairs, 15 July 2022