The Department of Home Affairs has announced the commencement of new South African border management laws that come into effect this week.

The Border Management Act (BMA) came into effect on Monday, August 15, and most sections are starting, according to Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi.

The only sections yet to be started are those relating to the appointment of the BMA Commissioner (sections 7-12) and the various sub-committees and their roles (sections 24-27).

The purpose of the BMA Act is to establish and extend the powers of the Office of Border Management to achieve integrated border enforcement in the border area and at points of entry in South Africa, and to ensure cooperation and coordination in border management matters as a whole.

New border management rules signed into law by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2020 come into force.

Changes in border management

BMA was established as a republican public organization subordinated to the Minister of Internal Affairs. Unlike the current system, which relies on a combination of more than seven different departments – including SARS, the SAPS and the SANDF – the new authority will use its own security to control and patrol the borders.

The first cohort of 200 BMA guards was deployed to vulnerable border posts in early July. The minister opened all ports of entry into South Africa on August 1 after two years of lockdown due to the Covid pandemic.

According to Motsaaledi, the BMA commissioner has the same powers as the police commissioner, but the role is focused solely on the country’s borders.

These guards are security personnel who will be deployed at vulnerable border crossings. Their duties include:

  • Attending on- and off-duty parades and posting as per deployment schedule.
  • Handling proactive and responsive complaint visits.
  • A report on detained illegals who are in detention centers.
  • Custody and control of exhibits/physical evidence found for transfer to other agencies.
  • Making arrests of illegal aliens/detainees for transfer to the nearest points of entry or police station for further processing.
  • Collection of information for the preparation of reports at the request of a higher authority.

Motsoaledi said the guards would also be responsible for controlling the movement of goods and people, with a particular focus on preventing illegal aliens from entering the country.

This will include:

  • Screening of persons, baggage and vehicles in accordance with the relevant regulations on scheduled operations at checkpoints/checkpoints at the port of entry and vulnerable areas at the border.
  • Carrying out border duties, checkpoint and other law enforcement duties at the outer/inner perimeters.
  • Reports on all illegal movements of people and goods.
  • Conducting surveillance from covert positions on or near international borders.

The minister said that the new guards will also be responsible for car and foot patrols. and reporting on foreign visitors, travelers and shoppers for monitoring purposes.

Read: The government is making changes to South Africa’s borders in the coming months – what to expect

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