ISSUE 16 | 2015

 

Dear Colleagues

Launch of Tshidilamolomo border crossing pilot

I am very pleased to have inaugurated the pilot of the border crossing point for the village of Tshidilamolomo. This project signifies several important things. It demonstrates the strength of our neighbourly relationship with the Republic of Botswana, the importance of a managed approach to international migration and our ability to find solutions for our people by listening and working with multiple stakeholders.

South Africa and Botswana enjoy a close relationship, based on deep historical, cultural, linguistic and family ties, as well as shared values of mutual respect, commitment to democracy, good governance, the rule of law and respect for human rights.

These ties were further strengthened in 2013, through the establishment of a Bi-National Commission to formalize cooperation between our two countries, through agreements in areas such as immigration, defence and security, energy, trade, transport and environment.

This project flows out of a discussion between our respective heads of state, President Zuma and President Khama, which began in 2011. Their Excellencies recognized the movement challenges faced by the village of Tshidilamolomo, which is separated by the South Africa-Botswana border. South Africa is committed to a management approach on international migration. This is based on the belief that the movement of people across borders is a reality of human civilization, which is largely beneficial to societies.

By managing international migration through thoughtful policies and regulations, we can enhance our respective nations’ development, security and fulfilment of constitutional and international obligations.

Tshidilamolomo is a case in point. The village straddles two countries, in part due to the irrational borderlines drawn by our former colonial masters. The people of Tshidilamolomo exemplify the ties which bind our two countries together, as across this border you are linked by community, by language, and by family.

Our shared border is extremely long, at 1,840 kilometres, and is the longest border we share with any of our neighbours. Due to limits on the number of ports of entry we can feasibly operate, this can pose a challenge for communities in border areas.

Many in these communities need to cross the borderline on a weekly, or even daily basis, to study, work, shop and visit family members. It would be impractical to expect them to travel to the nearest ports of entry, which are over two hours away (Bray; Ramatlabama) by car.

Of course, it is a matter of national sovereignty and security that states should regulate who enters and exits their territory, and how they do so. While the vast majority of travellers crossing borders are legitimate, law abiding citizens, there are a small minority of criminals who seek to conceal themselves amid these migration flows. These include people fleeing arrest and prosecution for crimes committed in other countries, and transnational criminals such as traders in illicit goods, human traffickers, people smugglers and terrorists.

The challenge for immigration authorities is to design systems which make it easy and efficient for legitimate travellers to do so, while making it difficult to impossible for illegitimate travellers to do so. Border crossing points such as the one being piloted today, are an innovative and people-centred solution to this problem.

As mandated by our Presidents, the immigration authorities of our respective countries have worked together, along with other stakeholders in both countries, including other government departments, traditional leaders, local government and members of the community, to develop a solution. Our officials have worked closely together to develop a solution that facilitates the easy movement of members of the Tshidilamolomo community, while ensuring that movement is regulated by the respective governments.

Thus, after a joint borderline survey, we have agreed to pilot a community crossing point in Tshidilamolomo. Each government will enrol its nationals residing in the area, by ensuring they have machine-readable passports, and are proven residents based on affidavits from traditional leaders and local councillors as required. Residents will be given a border pass document, which will enable them to cross at the community crossing point.

We will capture and verify each traveller’s identity using biometrics– fingerprint scan and photo– on each entry and exit.

This pilot project is scheduled for 12 months, during which we are convinced we will prove that this is an effective model for responding to the unique needs of cross-border communities. We will use this as an opportunity to work out the modalities of the system, to ensure the efficient facilitation of movement for community members, and a secure and well- regulated system for our respective governments.

The use of community crossing points, where appropriate, is one of several initiatives the Department of Home Affairs will take in the coming years, to ease movement for legitimate travellers. It will be joined by the roll-out of biometric enrolment at ports of entry rather than at visa application stage, a Trusted Traveller programme, piloting the use of e-visas, upgrading key ports of entry and exploring the feasibility of extending operating hours to 24 hours a day.

The Department of Home Affairs is absolutely committed to easing travel for legitimate visitors to South Africa, especially for SADC and African citizens. We are committed to managing immigration for development, and for contributing to regional integration, and our nation’s foreign policy objectives of a better Africa and a better world.

 

Sincerely,

Malusi Gigaba
Minister of Home Affairs (MP)