Illegal crossings a major security concern - Manana

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Pretoria - Illegal crossings along the Mpumalanga international borderline is a major security concern for South Africa, says Community Safety, Security and Liaison MEC Sibongile Manana.

The MEC visited the 500km long borderline on Monday and was shocked to notice that illegal crossings were a major security threat.

"Too many people crossed illegally to South Africa rather than those who utilised passports at the border gates," she said.

While at Magogeni borderline near Mananga border gate, Manana personally saw the illegal crossings which have been somehow regarded as "official" by local people from both Mpumalanga and Swaziland.

At least 40 people crossed the borderline within five minutes while the MEC was at the fence. She asked the people why they did not utilise the designated border gates.

They said the crossings were official. She was also told that illegal goods, counterfeit and stolen goods crossed either to or from South Africa, Swaziland and Mozambique.

She said although the police could not stop the movement of people between South Africa and other countries, the illegal crossings made it difficult for them to do their work.

"These crossings place a huge burden on the resources of our government because some of the foreign nationals are receiving social grants and other forms of assistance meant for the South Africans.

"This movement is undocumented, when these people are offended they do not even report to the police because they are here illegally.

"They are even used by criminals to commit crime because we do not have their fingerprints," Manana said.

She was told by the border police that cigarettes and vehicles crossed the border because they had no capacity to control the illegal crossings.

Human trafficking was also rife along the borderline because there was an easy access to South Africa.

The police also told the MEC that the working environment was not conducive for them to do their work effectively as the resources were not adequate.

Officials at the border gate said they needed technological devices to scan especially huge vehicles such as trucks that usually transported illegal goods to nearby countries.

The road along the international fence was not suitable for their vehicles and there was not enough personnel as untrained officers were drawn from the police stations to assist at the borderline.

At the Lebombo Border Post outside Komatipoort, Manana was shown a number of arrested vehicles stolen from South Africa destined for Mozambique. There were also arrested counterfeit goods.

With the 2010 FIFA World Cup around the corner, Manana acknowledged that borderline security needed to be intensified especially to counteract against human trafficking.

According to the department, the MEC is set to take the matter up with the Minister of Police, Nathi Mthethwa in an effort to convince the Cabinet to bring back the soldiers at the borders.