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Wednesday, December 6, 2023

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Border Management Authority must be more than window dressing

Published Oct 6, 2023


If South Africa has any hopes of stemming the tide against the influx of contraband flooding into Mzansi's borders, more is needed than mere ‘window dressing’ efforts.

This was according to the founder of Tax Justice South Africa (TJSA), Yusuf Abramjee, who highlighted how much more real action was needed to curb contraband which was robbing the country of billions of rand in vital revenue each year.

Abramjee said even though the organisation welcomed the assurances given by the government to ensure tighter policing of the country's porous borders, especially with the launch of the Border Management Authority (BMA) in Limpopo yesterday, they were concerned about the effectiveness of this initiative.

He said even though stakeholders were assured that the authority would help enforce controls against illegal immigration, smuggling and other illicit trade, they were concerned whether this was not simply talk with no action.

“While this initiative may be a step in the right direction in controlling our borders, it will be worthless if this authority is a mere window dressing. Smuggling is an existential threat to South Africa, which is being robbed of R250 million daily via illicit trade.

“Corruption and weak enforcement are worsening this menace. A concerted crackdown is needed to root out rogue officials, follow the money and arrest the kingpins who are looting our nation,” Abramjee said.

He further explained that the exposé of the Gold Leaf Mafia was one such example which highlighted how transnational organised crime groups were using illicit trade to rob the fiscus and amass huge wealth in offshore havens.

“We need meaningful action to tackle this industrial-scale organised crime. Simply arresting truck drivers and desperate smugglers at the Beitbridge border isn’t going to win this war."

He added: “The new border authority must work with Sars (the SA Revenue Service) and the National Prosecuting Authority to nail the smuggling kingpins, bring them to justice and retrieve the hundreds of billions of rand that have been stolen from the people of South Africa."

The launch of the BMA in Limpopo follows its formal establishment and the assumption of its status as a schedule 3 (A) public entity on April 1, 2023.

The establishment of the BMA is meant to ensure that South Africa has an integrated border management platform, with a single command and control with which to support the attainment of secure borders, safe travel and trade.