The Department of Home Affairs appeared before the Portfolio Committee of Home Affairs to explain its plans to tighten South Africa’s borders to guard against Covid-19 infections emanating from the movement of goods and people.  

Currently, the country’s six busiest land border posts are operational, said the Minister of the Department of Home Affairs, Dr Aaron Motsoaledi. “These have been selected to facilitate economic activity between our country and neighbours.” The minister also assured the members of the committee that a master plan is in place at all these posts, in addition to bilateral engagements between South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Mozambique and Botswana in which the principles of cooperation have been agreed upon. “This will constitute a juxtaposed model and all role players are deliberating to come up with the model to adopt and finalise the procedures of its manual,” Dr Motsoaledi said.

 Joint technical working groups from affected countries have been established and are hard at work “to advise on the technical aspects relating to policy, planning, cost sharing and financing. These will get reported to the working group of these affected countries going forward,” he said.  

The Department of Home Affairs has now adopted the Enhanced Movement Control System (EMCS) to embrace a technological and intelligence-based approach to managing migration. This is considered an effective way of managing the problem, as uncontrolled migration could lead to social instability, the Minister warned. The department has therefore adopted an “iron ring” approach to ensure that migration is processed in the country of origin. The modernisation of border control would, he said, “assist in assessing risks related to persons entering the country. This system relies on biometrics to deal with migration”.

 Committee members asked how the department was preparing to deal with front-office staff protection during the Covid-19 pandemic, as six home affairs offices have had to close due to infections and customers have been re-directed to nearby offices. The minister assured committee members that staff had sufficient personal protection equipment.  

They also wanted to know if home affairs personnel are trained in the new processes associated with the one stop boarder post management. The minister responded that this is a work-in-progress and discussions are being held with border partners to coordinate training efforts. Committee members also wanted to know   

The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, Mr Bongani Bongo, commented that the committee will closely monitor the department’s progress on the various projects through all the mechanisms available to the committee.  

Abel Mputing
20 May 2020