Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON
Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi. Picture: TREVOR SAMSON

Home affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi is frustrated at  parliament’s long delay in the adoption of a bill he believes is essential for the effective control of the country’s borders and ports of entry.

He said in the National Assembly last week that the government needs the Border Management Authority Bill “as of yesterday”.

The bill provides for the establishment of a single border control authority to replace the multiplicity of agencies and departments that now control the flow of people and goods across the borders and through ports of entry. These include the police, the defence force, the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the departments of home affairs, health, environment and agriculture, which jointly enforce 58 acts of parliament.

Under the proposed bill, this would all fall under a single border-management authority.

The Treasury and Sars have opposed the removal of the tax agency as being responsible for the collection of excise and customs duties while the police is concerned about how the new authority will affect its border protection function.

The bill was introduced to parliament in May 2016, approved by the National Assembly’s portfolio committee on home affairs in March 2017 and adopted by the National Assembly in June 2017.

Proposed amendments

The bill, which has been languishing in the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), was not finalised before the end of the fifth parliament. It was revived by the current parliament and is now being processed by the NCOP’s select committee on security & justice.

The committee is scheduled to deal with it on Wednesday, when it will be briefed by legal advisers on proposed amendments to the bill.

The committee will also be briefed by the department of home affairs and Sars on the practicalities of the revenue service’s working relationship at the border.

Committee chair Shahidabibi Shaikh said there has been no delay by her committee in dealing with the bill, which was only revived by the NCOP in October. She said the committee is processing the bill and has had many meetings on it.

DA MP Adrian Roos said a change in how SA’s borders are managed is clearly needed. He noted that the proposed border management authority has been roundly criticised due to issues of cost and the complexity of dealing with such a broad mandate affecting different departments under one agency.

Porous borders

“The DA believes there could be some merit in creating a single entity that would act as the lead agency in relation to border management,” Roos said. However, the scope and cost of the authority should be reduced to facilitating co-ordination and co-operation between the various entities involved in border management.

In a reply to a question by IFP MP Liezl van der Merwe on Wednesday, Motsoaledi said the government accepts that SA’s borders are porous.

“These porous borders, coupled with the fact that we have seven organs of state performing various border management mandates, using different legislation, different tools of trade and falling under different command structures, makes management of illegal migration very difficult.

“Hence we have prioritised the flagship government programme of establishing a border management authority,” he said.

“Fortunately, out of the realisation that management of illegal migration is impossible without the establishment of this authority, there has now been a lot of activity in the NCOP towards finalising this bill.”

The department of home affairs hopes the legislature will process the bill by the end of 2020, he said.

As parliament goes into recess in three weeks, time is running out.

Replying to another question, by DA home affairs spokesperson Joe McGluwa, Motsoaledi said his department is drawing up a new Home Affairs Bill that which would locate the department in the security system within the state.

Most departments in the security system are established by a separate act of parliament that regulates recruitment of employees, conditions of employment, and access to buildings.

Motsoaledi said the envisaged act would empower the minister of home affairs to declare certain functions of the department as essential services.