Cape Town – Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba says the proposed new border management authority is not an attempt at keeping citizens of neighbouring countries out, but a means of shutting down “irregular entry into our country”.
Gigaba was speaking to journalists in Parliament on Tuesday following a presentation by his department on its 2015/16 annual performance.
He said the proposed Border Management Authority (BMA) Bill, which will set up a centralised border control unit, is still on the agenda, and aims to clamp down on illegal immigration, among other things.
“We belong in Africa. We will never shut our country down,” he said after the portfolio committee meeting.
“What we want to shut down is irregular entry into our country, or illegal entry through borderline crossings.”
He said there were no reasons why citizens from SADC countries could not enter the country legally with the proper documentation.
He also said reported differences with the South African Revenue Service (Sars) and the police over their constitutional mandates at the border have been ironed out by Cabinet.
“There are no differences with anyone. There is a Cabinet decision about the establishment of the authority and a timeline.”
During public hearings into the bill in September, officials from the South African Police Service (Saps) and Sars both expressed concern over their mandates at the border.
The police said the Constitution empowered only them to police at the country’s 72 ports of entry. Similarly, Sars was constitutionally mandated to handle customs revenue at the border.
Gigaba said Cabinet had made a concession as it was never intended for the Border management authority to collect revenue.
“Revenue will still go to Sars into the revenue account. The BMA will only be responsible for the inspection and enforcement of goods arriving at the country’s ports of entry.”
He said only 10% of revenue was physically collected at the ports. The other 90% is all collected electronically, he said.
Every other player will cede its functions and personnel to the new border management authority, he added.
Gigaba expects the bill to be passed by both the National Assembly and the National Council of Provinces before April 2017, after the House failed to conclude deliberations this year.
After that, there will be a transitional phase of setting up the different legs of the authority from between 12 months to seven years, he said.
In October, home affairs director general Mkuseli Apleni said at public hearings the country’s borders are currently manned by 9 000 employees from five unco-ordinated organs of state.
This resulted in a large influx of undocumented foreigners and contraband goods as the various players focused on their own mandates at the expense of border security, Apleni said.
Gigaba assured both the police and the revenue service that the new authority would not usurp their powers, but that all other role players will cede to the border management authority.