Monograph 57: The Challenge to Control South Africa`s Borders and Borderline, Ettienne Hennop, Clare Jefferson and Andrew Mclean

The aim of this research project was to establish how effective South African border control mechanisms are in preventing the illegal smuggling or movement of firearms across South Africa’s international land borders. The research consisted of an analysis of the existing border controls initiatives, an analysis of two case studies of border areas and an opinion survey among police members at South Africa’s 52 land border posts.

Firearm-related crime is increasing at alarming rates in South Africa. Some illegal firearms enter the South African market as a result of smuggling activities across borders. However, the majority of firearms entering the illegal pool in the country do not originate from outside South Africa.

The analyses undertaken during the course of this study and the opinion survey demonstrated that illegal firearms, as well as crossborder crimes involving drugs, illegal immigrants, contraband and vehicles, are of concern to the South African government, the South African Police Service (SAPS), the Department of Home Affairs, the South African Revenue Service (SARS), the South African National Defence Force (SANDF) and non-governmental organisation (NGOs) alike.

The findings of the research can be summarised as follows:

    • There is substantial interest in improving border control in South Africa both from a national and an international perspective.

    • There is substantial interest from the private sector to assist the SAPS and the SANDF in strengthening their capabilities with a view to improve the successful combat of border crimes.

    • Structures have been in place for some time now to facilitate co-operation between the different government departments involved in border control on South Africa’s international borders. Although this collective approach has been followed for nearly six years, problems are still experienced such as a lack of proper communication on all levels.

    • South Africa loses revenue as a result of border crimes that lead to the non-payment of duties.

    • Crossborder crimes happen at will, including the illegal smuggling of firearms, across South African borders.

    • Border posts are understaffed and some even lack the basic facilities to undertake effective border policing such as facsimile machines, a consistent electricity supply, proper living quarters for police/customs/immigration officers, vehicles and proper search and storage facilities.

    • There is a lack of communication between the agencies working in the same field, resulting in the loss of valuable information on crime and crime syndicates.

    • There is a lack of trust between the agencies involved in border control at ground level, resulting in accusations of corruption.

    • Corruption is a fact that needs to be dealt with immediately.

    • The existing border control structure created to act as a co-ordination agency between the different departments involved is not reaching ground level.

    • New initiatives to address problem areas and conditions at border posts are welcomed.
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