The Portfolio Committee on Police says it will start a process of ensuring that South Africa has stricter border controls.
It will do so by calling the National Police Commissioner, Ms Riah Phiyega, to a meeting on 18 February this year where Ms Phiyega and her senior management team would explain how the South African Police Service (SAPS) plans to address challenges faced by the country’s ports of entry.
“The matter of having tighter controls at our borders is a non-negotiable. It is a matter of national security and as such, the Committee will not compromise on making sure that security controls at our borders are heightened,” said Committee Chairperson Mr Francois Beukman.
The Committee said this during its oversight visit to the Lebombo border post in Mpumalanga yesterday, where it heard of challenges experienced by police officers working at this border gate.
According to Mr Beukman, the 18 February meeting will seek responses on how the SAPS intends addressing the shortage of staff, lack of technology as well as inadequate facilities at the Lebombo border post. “We will also call the director-general of the Department of Public Works to be part of this meeting, as some of the challenges we picked up here fall squarely on their doorstep.”
Members were shocked to learn that some kilometres of the fencing around the Lebombo border post were no longer in place. They also heard that there was only one toilet catering for 160 police officers working at the border post. Police officers inspecting the cars going in and out of Mozambique and South Africa have no shelter they have to brave the sun, cold weather and rain when conducting their searches. Unlike other officials from the South African Revenue Service and the Department of Home Affairs, SAPS members are not allowed to reside within the precincts of the border post. They have to be transported in and out of the border post.
Colonel Mahlangu, the commander in charge of the Lebombo border post, said the shortage of staff is a hindrance to their work, especially during the festive and Easter seasons. He said he normally has 30 officers on duty per shift on a daily basis but would love to have 50 officers to help ease the workload and congestion. He said during busy times, the line of vehicles extends to about 50km from the boarder gates and the limited number of officers has to manually search the cars, checking for stolen cars, drugs, counterfeit and stolen goods, as well as wanted criminals.
The Committee found it incomprehensible that the SAPS had not procured a scanning machine in order to help the work done by police officers. “Technological aancement is very critical in this day and age. Having a scanner would help detect so many unwanted substances and we will urge the SAPS to look into this matter,” added Mr Beukman.
With the border post being a multi-departmental operation, Mr Beukman said he would engage his counterparts in parliamentary Committees such as Defence, Intelligence, Home Affairs and Public Works towards conducting a joint oversight visit to some border posts in the country.
“We want to ensure that our borders are properly controlled to prevent illegal activities in the country. And for this to happen, we need an integrated approach where all relevant role players can come together and ensure that our border controls are as effective as possible,” said Mr Beukman.
Today, the Committee is in the Kruger National Park where it is assessing the SAPS’ strategies of fighting rhino poaching.
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Source : Parliament of South Africa