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Parliament, Thursday, 23 October 2019 – The Select Committee on Security and Justice yesterday visited the Beitbridge Port of Entry. The committee received a joint briefing from the Department of Home Affairs (DHA), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) – and the South African Police Service (SAPS) spoke to the responsibilities of the respective departments in managing the border crossing and the systematic challenges they faced.

The committee noted the challenges relating to the close proximity of informal trading and the taxi rank at the port. Officials from the DHA said they have consulted with the municipality about the need to find alternative areas to which the taxi rank could be moved. Due to no response from the municipality, they have sought the intervention of the Member of the Executive Council (MEC) for CoGTA, the MEC for Transport and Community Safety, as well as the Department of Public Works (DPW).

The committee enquired about the mechanisms to inspect the goods brought through the port on large vehicles. The port services an average of 30 000 trucks, 40 000 light motor vehicles and 10 000 buses a month. The committee heard that there are scanners for both small and large vehicles at the points of inspection.

The committee noted the vast infrastructural challenges relating to poor road conditions, human resources challenges faced by the departments and the issues around the almost non-existent border fence. Officials from the Boarder Management Authority (BMA) requested that the committee assist by asking the DPW to prioritise these issues, which pose a particular challenge to the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) that has to patrol an area stretching up to 1 000 kilometres.

The committee heard that the SANDF budget and its human resources are just not enough to expand on these, and that the redeployment of members from Namibia to the Beit Bridge Port could possibly be an option to investigate. The committee thus notes that areas of high vulnerability need to be prioritised given the lack of resources.

Whilst taking cognisance of these challenges, the committee noted the view that the illegal crossing on the South African borders is not necessarily what contributes to the large number of undocumented foreign nationals in the country, but rather those who enter through the legal channels and end up settling in South Africa despite overstaying their visas.

The Chairperson of the committee, Ms Shahidabibi Shaikh, said: “The committee notes that there’s an attempt to coordinate government processes, but the manner of operation between the 10 departments operating at the border remains fragmented.”

She said an integrated approach is much needed to ensure the efficiency of the management of the border.

ISSUED BY THE PARLIAMENTARY COMMUNICATION SERVICES ON BEHALF OF THE CHAIRPERSON OF THE SELECT COMMITTEE SECURITY AND JUSTICE, MS SHAHIDABIBI SHAIKH.

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