Johannesburg - Minister of Home Affairs Dr Aaron Motsoaledi says his department is on course to appoint border control guards including border management commissioners in their drive to bring to end illegal movement of people into South Africa.
Motsoaledi made the announcement as South Africa is experiencing an influx of people trying to illegally make their way into the country especially through the border gates of Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho.
The influx worsened recently in Zimbabwe after the government introduced stricter lockdown regulations where curfew was implemented as 6pm and 6am in that country prompting people to cause chaos at the Beitbridge border gate.
Some were on Thursday still converging at the border gate hoping to make their way to South Africa amid the presence of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and the South African Police Service (SAPS) who were jointly manning the borders following a series of illegal crossing through the Limpopo River.
“We will soon establish border control guards, including appointing permanent commissioner of the Border Management Authority (BMA) soon after President Cyril Ramaphosa signs the BMA Bill into an Act of parliament. We want to appoint the border control guards to allow the army to continue to do their work of protecting the sovereignty of the country and the police to do their criminal investigations,” Motsoaledi said.
He, however, said he had asked the army and police in the meantime to intensify their operation after receiving reports that some of the illegal immigrants allegedly paid bribes to certain police officers to allow them to cross illegally to South Africa.
Equally concerned about the illegal crossing is Limpopo Health MEC Dr Phophi Ramathuba, who raised the alarm about people trying to enter South Africa with false Covid-19 test results. Beitbridge border crossing staff discovered more than 50 people in the past weeks with fake Covid-19 tests while the Department of Health was enforcing regulations requiring anyone entering the country to produce a negative test, taken no more than 72 hours prior to a border crossing.
Due to the chaos, parliamentary portfolio committee on Home Affairs led by advocate Bongani Bongo had this week visited various ports in the country – a day after President Cyril Ramaphosa announced the closure of 20 land ports, which also included Beitbridge, Lebombo and Mbuzini.
Bongo said the solution to the problems of congestion at the border posts was through the establishment of One-Stop Border Post with neighbouring countries and the establishment of the Border Management Authority (BMA).
“On May 18, 2020, when the committee received a briefing from the department, it identified the One-Stop Border Post and BMA as pillars in the way of ensuring the smooth functioning of the border area and is thus concerned by the slow progress in implementing this policy position.
“To alleviate the perpetual crisis at this border, the government must move with speed to implement an already agreed policy position to establish a One-Stop border post. The tardiness in implementing this policy position is both unacceptable and a contributing factor to problems at this port of entry,” Bongo said.
Bongo said the aim of One-Stop Border Post was to improve the efficiency of movement at the port of entry which is something that is lacking at Beitbridge currently.
Yesterday, the portfolio committee was in Mbuzini and Lebombo to all witness congestion at those border gates. While there, immigration officials carried out various arrests of people who tried to cross into South Africa –they were arrested and then deported back to Mozambique.