The Minister for the Public Service and Administration, Ms Noxolo Kiviet, lauded the work of the Border Management Agency (BMA), which was officially launched in October 2023, noting the achievements since it began operations in April 2023, but also encouraging the agency to leverage the data it routinely generates to shore up its operations.

“We want to ensure that the support we give in terms of the organisational design and job evaluation systems and processes for fully establishing the agency is effective because the potential risks for failure are too many,” said Minister Kiviet.

Accompanied by Deputy Minister Dr Chana Pilane-Majake and senior officials from the Department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA), Minister Kiviet was on a two-day visit in the Mpumalanga province on 11 January 2024 to mark the start of the departmental 2024 service delivery outreach and engagement programme.

During the visit, Minister Kiviet and the DPSA team engaged with border officials and stakeholders to understand the challenges and successes of the transition of the management of the border from the Department of Home Affairs to the BMA. The exposure visit included an explanatory tour of the South African side of the Lebombo Port of Entry. It served as a window through which the movement of people and goods could be observed as the entourage went through the pedestrian office, the main port, the cargo by-pass, the borderline, the stop and search, and the Kilometer (KM) 7 operational activities.

Among the busiest of South Africa’s 72 ports of entry, the Lebombo border’s cargo by-pass processes between 1,700 and 2,000 trucks daily, or as much as 60,000 trucks monthly. Moreover, staffed by 2100 personnel and 400 trainee border guards who fall under the BMA, as well as the nearly 7 000 South African Police Service (SAPS) border policing officers who are yet to be incorporated into the new agency, the border post facilitated the movement of about  350,000 during the 2023 festive season, according to data shared by the BMA Assistant Commissioner, Mr Murdock Ramathuba.

“The leadership of the BMA understands the reason why the agency was established. However, some of our plans can’t be fully implemented as we operate with fewer resources to run the border operations. We are operating at less than half of the staff that we require to operate fully,” the Assistant Commissioner explained while requesting the Minister’s support to help with unlocking the requisite resources within the high decision-making structures of the Government.

While acknowledging the challenges among the successes of the BMA, Minister Kiviet cautioned against placing too much emphasis on the human resources aspects of resolving these, which she said could mushroom the wage bill. The Minister also encouraged the BMA executive management team to explore the use of technology to close personnel gaps and leverage data to improve efficiencies.

“We should be able to use the information and the data to respond to the challenges we have identified in managing and controlling the border. Only when you have that data will you be able to devise a responsive strategy to a particular challenge,” said Minister Kiviet.

After the outreach and engagement session, Minister Kiviet identified several areas in which the DPSA could lend support to the BMA. These include helping with the interpretation of the relevant Public Service legislation, policies, and regulations regarding the transfer of functions among government institutions and the attendant conditions of service.