Hi-tech to plug loopholes at porous borders

Admire Moyo
By Admire Moyo, ITWeb's news editor.
Johannesburg, 07 Sept 2023
Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)
Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi. (Photograph by GCIS)

The Department of Home Affairs is looking to deploy high-technology at six borders to minimise the movement of illicit good at the land ports.

So said minister Aaron Motsoaledi yesterday, during a joint press conference to explain the request for proposals for the development of the six busiest land ports of entry.

“In our request for proposals, we are expecting the prospective partner companies to come install the latest technologies, such as gamma ray scanners, such that each truck can drive through them.”

According to the minister, gamma ray technology can pick up anything from illicit cigarettes, liquor, paper money and human beings.

“Some ports in other jurisdictions are still using X-ray technology, which we regard as outdated,” he noted.

The six borders where the technology will be deployed are Beitbridge (Zimbabwe), Lebombo (Mozambique), Maseru Bridge (Lesotho), Ficksburg (Lesotho), Kopfontein (Botswana) and Oshoek (Eswatini).

“The main objective is to make it easier for the law-abiding people and companies to easily enter and exit South Africa through our borders, while the illicit movement of persons and goods is nipped in the bud – pun intended,” Motsoaledi said.

“In fact, South Africa’s ports of entry were designed during the apartheid era with the primary objective of tightened security, while neglecting the effective facilitation of regional and international trade.”

He added the outcome of the redevelopment of these ports of entry will be used as a blueprint in the long-term for all of South Africa’s other land ports of entry.

Civic body Public Interest SA says porous borders have long been a concern for South Africa, as they contribute to illicit economies, human trafficking and transnational organised crime.

“Public Interest SA commends the forward-thinking approach of the Department of Home Affairs and its partners in addressing these pressing issues head-on. Better late than never,” says the organisation.

“This joint effort reflects a commitment to bolstering the security and integrity of South Africa’s borders, ensuring the safety of its citizens, and protecting its economy from the harmful effects of illegal activities.”

Earlier this year, the department said it was looking to increase coverage of its Biometric Movement Control System (BMCS) across all ports of entry during the 2023/24 financial year.

The project was initiated to replace the enhanced Movement Control System (eMCS) by capturing the biometrics of travellers coming into the country.

It will replace the eMCS, which has reached its end of life. The eMCS was implemented just before the World Cup in 2010, with enhancements in 2013.

The BMCS aims to enable the capturing of fingerprint and facial biometric data for all travellers who enter and exit SA.

It also serves to trace the movement of travellers in the country, as well as identify citizens and foreign nationals to improve national security.