Increased deployments at the country's borders this Easter weekend

Monday, March 25, 2024

More Border Management Authority (BMA) resources are going to be deployed and operating times will be increased at the country’s ports of entry in anticipation of an increase in movements during the Easter long weekend.

“The BMA is compelled to properly plan and execute a deliberate plan in order to ensure smooth and secure border operations during this period,” BMA Commissioner Michael Masiapato said on Monday.

Briefing the media in Pretoria, Masiapato said there was a critical need for the authority to increase its deployment of resources in anticipation of increased movements at the borders, as this presents unique challenges.

“As a reminder to all the stakeholders, the BMA is mandated to facilitate and manage the legitimate movements of persons and goods across all our 52 land ports of entry, 10 international airports and nine seaports,” he said.

The facilitation of movement at the ports of entry is done across five key functional areas of immigration, port health, environmental and agricultural biosecurity, including access control and general law enforcement at the ports of entry and border law enforcement areas.

“During these facilitations, the BMA officials have to secure the ports environment against threats of illegal migration, smuggling, as well as trafficking of persons and goods.

“With this in mind, we have formulated comprehensive strategies and an operational plan to ensure that our deployments are responsive and ensure efficient port operations, with the requisite capability to deal with any security threats and/or risks, which may arise during the upcoming Easter period,” he said.

The Easter operational plan is supported by various law enforcement structure,s such as the South African Police Service (SAPS), South African Revenue Service (SARS), South African National Defence Force (SANDF), Cross Border Road Transport Agency and various traffic authorities.

“Since our establishment, the BMA has intensified its working relationship with the Immigration Inspectorate, which has the mandate to identify illegal migrants who are already in the country and ensure their processing for deportation to their respective countries,” Masiapato said.

He said in this Easter period, they anticipate about one million people moving through the country’s ports.

“The numbers for this year’s Easter period could escalate further as members of the Zion Christian Church (ZCC), one of our biggest churches in the region, is opening for the annual Easter pilgrimage to Moria for the first time since COVID-19.”

Masiapato said the BMA has engaged their counterparts in Lesotho, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Botswana, and they have agreed to extending operating hours at certain critical ports, which do not usually operate on a 24-hours basis.

The chairperson of the Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committee on Border Management, who is also the Minister of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi, has approved the request to extend operating hours for selected ports.

Statistics for the 2023 Easter period showed that ports of entry, which facilitated the majority of the people were Beitbridge to Zimbabwe, Lebombo to Mozambique, Groblers Bridge to Botswana, Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg to Lesotho, OR Tambo International Airport, Cape Town International Airport, Oshoek to Eswatini, Kopfontein to Botswana and Caledonspoort to Lesotho. –