SANDF warns of illegal crossings in borders

The army has warned that illegal crossings have been causing problems for the country. File Picture

The army has warned that illegal crossings have been causing problems for the country. File Picture

Published Mar 6, 2024


The South African National Defence Force (SANDF) has called on the Border Management Authority (BMA) to be deployed in illegal crossings, where the border straddles communities in neighbouring states, to allow the army to deploy more resources on the borderline.

SANDF Chief of Joint Operations, Lieutenant General Siphiwe Sangweni said they have been working well with the BMA since it was established.

Sangweni said on Wednesday illegal crossings have been headache for many years. He added that the Department of Home Affairs has been trying to deal with the issue for years, but it has not succeed.

He said in these illegal crossings they have to manage schoolchildren who live outside South Africa, but cross into the country daily to attend school. The communities in the neighbouring states live close to the border of South Africa.

Head of the BMA Mike Masiapato said illegal crossings were on borders with neighbouring countries like Mozambique, eSwatini and Botswana.

The SANDF and BMA were appearing before the portfolio committee on defence on the management of the borders.

Sangweni said the issue of illegal crossings has to be dealt with.

“There is one part which we feel it is appropriate for the BMA border guards to be in our area of operation in borderline, is what we call informal crossing points.

“Those informal crossing points are a problem. I believe all of us are aware about it because they allow you to move across the two countries without going through the port of entry and without a passport or any permit.

“What we have been saying is that it is illegal and a crime for any person to cross a borderline at an area other than the designated official port of entry. But there are these informal crossings. What we do is to do static deployment and manage that aspect. We feel the BMA can manage those illegal crossings and we can manage the borderline,” said Sangweni.

Masiapato said at the moment they have capacity constraints to deploy BMA border guards in vulnerable segments or illegal crossings.

But he said this is a matter they believe would have to be addressed and the SANDF would have to be taken out of the vulnerable segments.

These are areas that straddle communities between South Africa and other neighbouring states.

“There are vulnerable segments on the borderline. Those are areas that straddle communities. One side of the community is on the Botswana side and the other part of the community is on the South African side. In those particular areas we do static deployment of the border guards to make sure they monitor the activities in those areas and deal with any illegalities.

“We want to confirm to the committee because of capacity we have not been able to deploy in those vulnerable segments. We have deployment in some of the segments but not in all of the segments. Therefore, we still have the SANDF being deployed in some of those vulnerable segments, assisting in dealing with those situations and as we go into the future we should be able to allow the SANDF to be taken out of those highly civilian based environments and get the border guards deployed to be able to deal with the basic law enforcement in those areas so that the SANDF can do the overall responsibility of border protection,” said Masiapato.

Sangweni said the job of the army was to defend the border and territorial integrity of South Africa.

He said they were not operating at the ports of entry, but BMA and other agencies were involved there.

Minister of Home Affairs Aaron Motsoaledi said the BMA and SANDF signed a memorandum of understanding to work together. This was because the SANDF, the South African Revenue Service and SA Police Service were not absorbed into BMA when it was formed last year.

He said in 2009 the National Intelligence Coordinating Committee had identified the need to establish a border agency because of security threats.

It took 12 years before parliament could pass the bill because of differences in the approach in managing entities that will fall under the agency.