Protection through coordination

    The newly formed Border Management Authority has quickly set to work.

    group of border guard (BMA)

    The value of South Africa’s newest law enforcement authority was underlined in the first week of December 2023 and continued during the Festive Season operations when various interventions were made at the ports of entry managed by the Border Management Authority (BMA). The Border Management Festive Season period comprised 43 days from 6 December 2023 to 18 January 2024. More than five-million people who travelled through the ports were facilitated by the BMA this festive season, an increase from the number of four-million seen in the 2022 Festive Season. The BMA will continue with increased movement of travellers during the Easter holiday period.

    The BMA operated in a coordinated approach to manage and control movement at our borders. Last year to deal with the expected rush on South Africa’s borders during the Christmas holidays, an additional 380 personnel were deployed to the country’s busiest ports of entry. Additionally, the BMA strategically deployed Border Guards at the 10 vulnerable segments along the country’s border line of Beit Bridge, Lebombo, Oshoek, Maseru, Ficksburg, Sani Pass and Telle Bridge ports of entry. The Border Guards work closely with members of the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) at the identified vulnerable segments. This resulted in the detection and deportation of 27,005 individuals who were attempting to enter South Africa illegally. A number of entities work together to keep the country’s borders secure, and joint sting operations and roadblocks are a good example of some of the interventions.

    Issues such as health, agricultural security and the environment are all part of the equation. In these areas, through detection and interception, BMA agriculture, health and environmental specialists work to prevent any threats as they seize illegal products from entering South Africa.

    Among the entities involved in border management are the South African Police Service (SAPS), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF), the South African Revenue Service (customs and revenue collection) and various government entities looking at immigration. The BMA is the coordinating authority on border security and major successes have been recorded. From drugs, cars, illegal products, undocumented persons, etc have all been prevented from entering the country through our ports.

    Coordination vital

    As Dr Masiapato says, “Our aim was to move away from a multiagency approach and become an integrated border management platform for the implementation of border laws of South Africa.” Where before a person entering South Africa or wanting to trade across international boundaries into the country would be subject to various procedures and protocols from a variety of agencies, the BMA is the main point of contact and is in a position to standardise operations. “The key vision is to have all those various procedures integrated into a single standard operating procedure to bring seamless movement of trade across the Republic,” notes the Commissioner. Dr Masiapato continues, “Also, to ensure that as we streamline the movement of trade between us and our neighbouring jurisdictions and among the broader global community, we look after the country’s national security and interest and protect the Republic from any infiltration of undesirable individuals or even commodities that are a threat to the country’s sustenance.”

    A more centralised and efficient system will help iron out the bureaucracy that might have delayed operations at the various ports of entry, something which was not beneficial to the country’s trading environment and reputation. The BMA aims to streamline procedures to promote and facilitate better trading conditions. Comments Dr Masiapato, “One of the biggest upsides of an efficiently functioning BMA will be to improve trade between South Africa and its neighbours.” Agents at ports of entry (land, air and sea) will be trained in a risk-based approach, intended to improve the chances of identifying individuals who should be intercepted and prevented from committing criminal activities. South Africa has 52 land ports of entry, together with 10 international airports and nine seaports. The land border alone is more than 4 800km long and so the task of policing and administering the border is a big one.

    The BMA is South Africa’s third armed law enforcement authority, together with the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force, and as such reports to President Cyril Ramaphosa as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic.

    The BMA is South Africa’s third armed law enforcement authority, together with the South African Police Service and the South African National Defence Force, and as such reports to President Cyril Ramaphosa as the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces of the Republic.

    Qualified personnel

    The first person to carry the title of Commissioner and CEO of the BMA is Dr Mike Masiapato, who holds more than two decades of experience in national intelligence. He is a twice-qualified doctor with PhD degrees in Public Management and Governance. Having been appointed to senior positions in the military, the police services, civilian intelligence and financial intelligence, Dr Masiapato has deep experience of the kinds of threats and challenges to national security that South Africa faces. Jane Thupana is Deputy Commissioner: Corporate Services. The latest post that she held prior to her secondment to the BMA was Executive Chairperson of the Municipal Demarcation Board of South Africa. Having worked in executive positions within the public sector for more than 20 years, Thupana has a Master’s degree in Public Administration and Business Leadership, a diploma in Developmental Studies and a degree in Geography. She is known as an independent researcher and an expert in governance.

    The other Deputy Commissioner is responsible for Operations. In that field, David Chilembe (Retired), is eminently qualified, having been in charge of border policing for a decade and a half. He has a BTech in policing, a postgraduate degree in management and rose to the rank of Major-General within the South African Police Service (SAPS). 

    General David Chilembe, Deputy Commissioner: Operations (left), with fellow Deputy Commissioner: Corporate Services, MJJ Thupana, and Commissioner Dr Masiapato.

    For more information on the Border Management Authority, contact

    BMA logo