Home Affairs Minister Malusi Gigaba sought to ease worries regarding the Border Management Authority Bill and its implications for the SA Revenue Service (Sars) and the SA Police Service (SAPS)‚ saying the agency did not wish to arrogate their powers or duties.
Gigaba was speaking to the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs in Parliament on Tuesday morning. This was part of a series of public hearings which the committee kicked off to get submissions on the bill.
The implications of the bill for the SAPS and Sars emerged as a bone of contention during a portfolio committee meeting on the bill last month‚ where both suggested that lines of authority and the operational liberties of the Border Management Agency (BMA) were unclear.
The bill envisages a border management regime managed by a new agency which will have customs officials and security personnel at all of SA’s multiple ports of entry. Proponents say the bill is necessitated by emerging instances of terror‚ trafficking and SA’s own “porous borders”.
Gigaba told the committee that the BMA is not meant to take away the functions of SAPS personnel and Sars customs officials at borders but rather to support their operational levels at ports of entry.
“You are not dismembering Sars. You are only making use of those at ports of entry. The rest will continue to do their work. It’s not as if the funds that come from customs into the BMA and Sars will no longer do this work‚” said Gigaba.
Gigaba said the revenues from customs would still be directed to Sars and that Home Affairs had no interest in or desire to collect customs revenue on behalf of Sars. He said the agency would work with police at border management and that none of the constitutional duties of police and defence personnel would be taken from them.
“BMA-commissioned officers can also arrest someone and hand them over to the police. On their own‚ the BMA officers cannot act as police. But these are commissioned officers who will work with police‚” he said.
Gigaba insisted to the committee that Cabinet had met on the matter and agreed on the need for the BMA as an agency.
The guiding principle of the agency is that it be responsible for the entire border environment‚ coordinate‚ control and oversee borders‚ and use cooperation and integrated systems‚ he said. – Tiso Black Star Group Digital