Home Affairs officials Stephen van Neel, head of port control (left) with Elroy Africa, head of the Border Management Agency (right) during a media workshop at the Government Communication and Information System in Pretoria. PHOTO: ANA

Pretoria - South Africa’s national department of home affairs on Thursday, announced extended operating hours and boosted staff numbers at ports of entry leading into, and out of South Africa, for the 2017/18 festive season as millions of people embark on their year-end trips. 

The department interacted with journalists during a media workshop hosted in partnership with the Government Communication and Information System (GCIS) in Pretoria, outlining the festive season plans to be implemented across the South African border environment.

“Learning from past experience, sound planning is critical as we are likely to experience an increase in traveller movements, which exerts additional strain on available resources at ports of entry while posing security risks and dynamics for South Africa and countries with which it shares borders. This makes it necessary to plan for and mitigate against illegal movements and other transgressions,” said Home Affairs spokesperson Thabo Mokgola.

During the 2015/16 festive period, a total of 5,303,555 movements were recorded, comprising arrivals and departures of South African citizens and foreign nationals. Of these movements, more than 3,814,000 were foreign nationals making the trips.

In the 2016/17 festive period, the number rose to 5,504,022 – an increase of 200,467 or 3.78 percent. For 2016/17, movements for foreigners recorded reached 3,944,788.

Mokgola said Home Affairs Minister Ayanda Dlodlo has approved extended hours and additional staff for the festive period.

“Operational hours will be extended for busy ports of entry, covering pre-festive season movements, the festive season period and the re-opening of schools, that is, from 6 December 2017 to 16 January 2018,” he said. 

To ensure reasonable turnaround times, and to avoid congestion associated with peak periods, the department of home affairs has deployed additional staff at targeted ports of entry. 

These are: Lebombo from 147 to 222 staff members; Beitbridge from 125 to 215 members; Maseru Bridge from 62 to 107 staff; Ficksburg from 34 to 64 staffers; Oshoek from 38 to 63 staffers, OR Tambo International Airport from 345 to 370 staff; Groblersbridge from 14 to 22 staff members; Mahamba from 10 to 20; Kopfontein from 31 to 34;  Ramathlabama from 20 to 22; Skilpadshek from 15 to 18 staff members; Caledonspoort from 11 to 17; Van Rooyenshek from 12 to 20; Tellebridge from four to nine;  Qachasnek from four to eight; Kosibayfrom five to 10 staffers; and the Cape Town International Airport now has 75 staff members from 68.

He said the department wishes all citizens and travellers a safe and memorable festive season, characterised by “only legitimate people and goods” being allowed to enter into or depart from South Africa.