Media reports following discussions in the Parliamentary
Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs create the impression that I
am endeavouring to create some kind of "special force"
under my control, responsible for border control. The Portfolio
Committee is currently debating the Immigration Bill. This
misrepresentation requires clarification.
About fourteen organs of the State currently carry responsibilities in respect of Border Control. For decades, there have been conflicts, turf wars and dysfunction among some of the main players involved in Border Control and functions at the points of entry. For years, there have been attempts to create ways in which some degree of informal integration could take place, without notable success. The underlying issue that the Immigration Bill attempts to address is which of the many agencies involved in this process should be "the leading agency". It does not ascribe sole responsibility to Home Affairs. The Bill endeavours to bring the badly needed integration into the process of Border Control. The degree of integration is not decided in the Bill. In terms of clause 59 this integration can only be brought about through the total agreement of the other organs of State involved. If there is no agreement, the situation stays as it is.
Cabinet discussed this matter at length and reached the decisions embodied in the Bill, which reflected those approved by Cabinet two years earlier in the White Paper. Therefore, the regulation of Border Control is a Cabinet policy decision, not my personal or ministerial intention.
It should therefore be clear that through the Immigration Bill, I am not attempting to establish any "special force" under my control but am simply endeavouring to bring some order into the current fragmented system of Border Control.
The country should ask itself which Department should be legally in charge of controlling the borders to prevent illegal immigration and arrest those who cross our borders illegally. Constitutionally this function cannot be exercised by the SA National Defence Force and, at present, it would be difficult for it to be carried out by an overstretched South African Police Service. Once the responsibility is vested in Home Affairs, our Department may enlist the assistance of the SANDF and the SAPS.