BMA deploys 400 additional junior guards at ports of entry ahead of Easter weekend

25 March 2024 - 18:41
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The Border Management Authority (BMA) briefed the media about their plan to increase security at ports of entry this Easter weekend. File photo.
NO ENTRY The Border Management Authority (BMA) briefed the media about their plan to increase security at ports of entry this Easter weekend. File photo.
Image: Esa Alexander

The Border Management Authority (BMA) will deploy 400 additional junior border guards at the busiest ports of entry over Easter.

The junior guards who will complete their training in the next few weeks will assist with delivering services and providing law enforcement support. 

BMA commissioner Dr Michael Masiapato outlined the plan to increase security control at ports of entry over Easter at a media briefing on Monday.

He said the 400 guards who were recruited early last year had started training in the middle of 2023.

They are scheduled to end the training in the coming few weeks. They will have their passing-out parade next month and then be fully deployed. 

“As part of their training, they had to obviously do the hard-core training but they also have to do a soft training. This means a kind of classroom intellectual training on the various legislated mandates of the BMA. Their core area of work is purely border law enforcement that they are going to be doing,” he said. 

The junior guards will be intensifying access control across the entries into the port environment and make sure that all people who enter the port are legitimate travellers who are carrying the requisite travel documents.

This is purely the main function, they are not going to be doing port health function. They are not going to be doing agricultural biosecurity work.

They are also not going to be doing environmental biosecurity work. They are going to assist us with immigration-related work and this one is purely on the use of the biometric movement control system and they had all the requisite training that is required for them to be able to assist us,” he said. 

Most of the additional border guards would be deployed at Beitbridge, Lebombo, Fiksburg, Maseru Bridge, Telle Bridge, Kosi Bay and Grobler’s Bridge.

Masiapato said as was the case in December and January, previous trends have shown that the Easter period also experiences increased travel and trade activities across ports of entry and the border law enforcement area.

He added there was a critical need to increase deployment of resources in anticipation of increased movements at ports as this presents unique challenges and opportunists.

The BMA is mandated to facilitate and manage the legitimate movements of people and goods across all 52 land ports of entry, 10 international airports and nine seaports.

He said the Easter operational plan is supported by various law enforcement structures including police, the South African Revenue Service, the South African National Defence Force, the Cross Border Road Transport Agency and various traffic authorities.

Easter plan 

The plan consists of four phases — planning, execution, demobilisation and

The planning phase included a situational analysis conducted at the port and regional levels to determine the specific needs of each port of entry. During this phase, various needs were identified such as extending operating hours for ports that do not operate on a 24-hour basis.

The execution phase will run from Tuesday until Thursday April 4 and involves the exit and return legs. The exit leg is expected to peak on Thursday as travellers leave the country. The return leg is expected to peak on Monday April 1 when travellers return.

The third phase is demobilisation which will commence on Friday April 5, followed by the implementation of the sustenance phase on April 6 until the next festive period of December and January 2025.

The implementation of the sustainment phase is based on permanent resources deployed at the ports of entry and the border law enforcement areas. The purpose of the sustenance phase is to ensure that the day-to-day operations of the officials respond to the identified threats and vulnerabilities of specific ports.

“Since we started implementing the sustenance phases after the festive period, significant achievements have been noticed as respective ports do respond to their specific realities across our land, sea and air modalities,” he said. 

The commissioner said during the 2023 Easter period which ran for eight days, they recovered and facilitated about 913,859 people across ports of entry. The BMA is anticipating about one million people moving through the 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.”

He said the statistics for the 2023 Easter period, showed the 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.

Vulnerabilities at the ports of entry

Masiapato acknowledged vulnerabilities at the ports and indicated they had not been completely mitigated within the 11 months of the BMA's existence. 

“It still exists and we continue to deal with it. The fact that we still have those incidences of people who continue to facilitate people across the border law enforcement area, particularly the vulnerable segments.

“One thing that we know is that over time with this particular issue of border management, some basic criminal elements had created a business enterprise for themselves,” he said. 

“On a daily basis as we have deployed the border guards we continue to apprehend those and we also continue to apprehend the individuals themselves who are being moved in between,” he said.


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