Right of reply: Society doesn't give repeat offenders a free pass simply because they frequently break the law in any other sphere of life. Immigration is no different, writes Siya Qoza.
Your story that appeared in print and online on January 12 this year, titled, “Beitbridge anti-immigration efforts hit by bribery claims”, bears reference. As the Department of Home Affairs, we wish to make a few points, for the benefit of your readers.
Firstly, we will continue to arrest and deport illegal migrants who attempt to cross the border illegally, each and every time they try to do so. Society doesn't give repeat offenders a free pass simply because they frequently break the law in any other sphere of life. Immigration is no different.
The processes we follow when we find undocumented people near the border law enforcement area are provided for in law. Therefore, we won’t tire of implementing the prescripts of the relevant laws.
Everyone who wants to come into South Africa must follow the applicable immigration laws. There is no parallel route to coming to South Africa because you are a repeat border jumper.
As it were, South Africa has deported more than 11 294 people between December 10, 2021, and January 10, 2022. More than 3 000 were deported through Beit Bridge.
Secondly, Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi went to Beit Bridge to monitor the implementation of the festive season operational plans, which were drafted earlier in the year. He visited Beit Bridge together with a Border Management Authority team, led by the national commissioner, Dr Mike Masiapato.
Home Affairs director general Tommy Makhode went to Maseru Bridge and Ficksburg for a similar reason. Other senior managers monitored the implementation of these plans at other border posts.
The minister did not go to Beit Bridge to set up a management team and deploy guards, as suggested in the article. He approved the management teams and the deployment of guards before the operations started in December 2021.
Thirdly, that there are repeat offenders who get arrested and get deported is testament to the effectiveness of the multiple firewalls we put in place against border jumping.
These people who were deported we arrested either at a port of entry, along the border line, or at the roadblocks which are set up at multiple points along the routes linking South Africa to our neighbouring countries, particularly, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Eswatini and Lesotho.
These operations are ongoing and are reviewed periodically.
And lastly, various government agencies increased the staff complement deployed at the borders during the festive period to ensure a smooth and quick processing of legal cross-border movements of people and goods.
An overwhelming number of these officials do their work diligently every single day. In the case of the Department of Home Affairs, some of the people who are deployed are the Immigration Inspectorate officers who are tasked with enforcing the immigration laws along the border line and at the roadblocks.
Others are from the Counter Corruption Branch, whose work is to dissuade Home Affairs officials from committing illegal acts and to bring to book those suspected of wrong doing.
Working with other law enforcement agencies, the Counter Corruption Branch pivoted an operation that led to the arrest of six immigration officers, a policeman and a Mozambican national at the Lebombo border post between SA and Mozambique in November 2021.
If there are any Home Affairs officials taking bribes at any border post, they will face the consequences of their actions.
The fight against corruption is a daily pursuit at the Department of Home Affairs and it is championed by Minister Motsoaledi.
* Siya Qoza is the spokesperson for Home Affairs Minister Dr Aaron Motsoaledi.
** The views expressed here are not necessarily those of IOL and Independent Media.