The Border Management Authority (BMA) has intercepted more than 440 children believed to have been trafficked into South Africa from Zimbabwe.
This is according to BMA commissioner Michael Masiapato, who was addressing the media during a briefing in Pretoria on Sunday.
Masiapato said the children, aged eight and under, were found in buses without a parent or a guardian.
“Fairly, they were being trafficked into South Africa,” said Masiapato.
“We were able to take them out of those buses and we were able to engage with Zimbabwean officials. We were able to send them back for processing.”
The BMA said it is implementing a comprehensive plan including longer border post operating times and deploying more officers on the ground as part of its festive season operations to tighten security in South Africa’s borders with neighbouring states.
Additional 380 officers are expected to be deployed at selected busiest ports of entry.
Masiapato said the BMA expects at least 6-million people to move through South Africa’s borders during the festive season.
Focus on curbing illegal movement
He added that the authority has also been able to stop more than 40 000 people who were attempting to gain entry into the country illegally, saying they were deported back to their countries of origin.
The BMA has engaged with six immediate neighbouring countries on the “synchronisation of processes and other work modalities” including working hours, said the commissioner, emphasising that the authority will also be keeping a close eye on any illegal activities.
“We would also be focusing on curbing illegal movement of persons and goods with specific focus on cross-border organised criminal elements and other general crimes perpetrated in the ports of entry and border law-enforcement area,” he said.
“We have put all measures in place to detect and confiscate narcotics, contraband, illicit goods, and even stolen vehicles.
“We therefore want to urge all travelers to desist from committing any acts of criminality as they will be detected, arrested, declared undesirable, and then deported.”
Ramaphosa hails launch of BMA
Speaking at the launch of the BMA at Musina showgrounds in Limpopo early in October, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government sees the authority “as a vital link in our efforts to harness the benefits of the African Continental Free Trade Area”.
He said: “A more secure border is important for curbing illegal migration, human smuggling and trafficking. It will help in combating cross-border crime.”
He said since 1994, the country’s border management had been exercised by different government departments and state agencies, often implementing their respective mandates in isolation.
“Lack of coordination and inadequate information-sharing between various management and enforcement authorities rendered our borders vulnerable.”
The BMA, said the president, will be a new model of integration of functions, roles and responsibilities in the broader law-enforcement environment.