The urgent implementation of the new Border Management Authority (BMA) Act has come under the spotlight yet again as thousands of travellers on Monday struggled to enter the country due to major delays at critical ports of entry.
The end of the Easter long weekend saw many people returning from their vacations across the border, particularly at the Lebombo Border Post between Mozambique and Mpumalanga.
Travellers entering the country had to abide by the regulations, which included the mandatory wearing of masks at all times, practising social distancing and presenting a negative Covid-19 test result not older than 72 hours.
If they did not have a Covid-19 certificate clearing them of the virus, travellers had to be tested at the border and wait for their results before they could be let through.
The border controls around South Africa have always been a contentious issue, and many people hoped the BMA would reduce the problems.
The BMA Bill was passed by Parliament last year to create a single agency that would man the borders.
The BMA Bill had been in Parliament for several years, and a few years ago it was ramped up, with the national legislature approving it last year.
DA MP Adrian Roos said that although the BMA came into effect two months ago, he questioned why there was still no project plan with funding and deadlines for the authority.
“The lack of action from Home Affairs to put forward a plan for the expected December/January traffic led to a humanitarian crisis at the borders, where NATJOINTS stepped into the leadership void to resolve the crisis, with the BMA a passive spectator,” he said.
Roos said the BMA Act opened the doors for the establishment of a border guard and a coast guard but said that there was currently no information available on this aspect of the BMA’s operations.
It is estimated it will take 15 years to implement the BMA, with an estimated establishment cost of more than R600 million.
“South Africa does not have 15 years to wait for an agency that may not materialise. Home Affairs needs a concrete plan for the 15-year implementation period, or return to the border management agency, rather than authority, concept,” he said.
A report published by the Institute of Security Studies in August last year said that centralising the country’s border functions under Home Affairs was “an expensive and curious decision”.
In January, Deputy Home Affairs Minister Njabulo Nzuza confirmed to Parliament that the appointment of the head of the new agency to oversee the country’s borders would take place soon.
Since then, Home Affairs has been mum on the matter, with a date yet to be announced.