Africa & World

Removing apartheid-era electric fence border with Zimbabwe was a mistake: Motsoaledi

SOUTH Africa’s Home Affairs minister Aaron Motsoaledi says removing apartheid-era electric fences to secure the border was a “terrible mistake.”

Motsoaledi spoke on Monday as he expressed his exasperation with the unending flow of illegal immigrants, particularly from Zimbabwe, which he blamed on “joblessness and hunger.”

Motsoaledi said they were employing drones and other technologies to thwart illegal immigrants, but he warned no system is waterproof.

“We’re dealing here with social and economic systems (in neighbouring countries). The borders during apartheid was electric fence, the army and all that (sic) which we all removed because we thought we’re a democracy. Now we realise we made a terrible mistake by removing those and replacing them with nothing,” Motsoaledi said.

South Africa is shortly setting up a Border Management Authority whose mandate will be to secure the borders and stem the tide of illegal border crossings, he said.

“People are illegally crossing through the border and the army is deployed where they crossover. Security is tight, but people still try because this is out of desperation from what is happening in neighbouring countries especially Zimbabwe,” Motsoaledi said.

“They go down the ladder to then cross the river but the army is waiting for them. We need a Commissioner of the Border Management Authority whose job is to deal with borders, and we’re already in the process of appointing two deputy commissioners.”

Motsoaledi refused to say when he thought illegal migration would be brought under control, insisting that this in part depends on Zimbabwe and other neighbouring countries improving their economies.

“This depends on many factors,” he told eNCA. “For instance, part of what’s happening in our neighbouring countries – hunger, joblessness etc, that makes people so desperate.

“So you can’t just say people are no longer going to come to South Africa, that will be grossly unfair.”

South Africa is host to an estimated three million Zimbabweans – a majority of them undocumented immigrants. ■

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