It has taken a while, but the global discussion about protecting borders has finally filtered down to South Africa, and it is being spearheaded by Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane.
Borders have featured prominently in North American and European political discourse recently and at the heart of many of those discussions is the criminal element that is believed to exploit porous borders.
Maimane, speaking at the Ramatlabama border control post on Thursday, said the key to solving South Africa’s growing drug problem was the protection of the country’s borders.
Maimane said Mahikeng and Mmabatho had seen a 538 percent and 323 percent increase in drug crime over the past decade.
He said the state of South African borders was impossible to ignore, adding that the governing African National Congress (ANC) paid minimal attention to it.
“This is not just a crime statistic, it is a catastrophe of destroyed lives. We cannot hope to build a stable and prosperous South Africa if we cannot keep our children safe. Any investment in our country must begin with them,” said Maimane on Thursday.
“But when you look at the effects of drugs and drug-related crime in our communities, then we have to admit that we are failing to protect them. This is a problem across the entire country, but I want to specifically point out the alarming rise in drug crimes here in this province.
“There are 84 police stations in the North West province, and almost all of them have reported a dramatic increase in drug-related crime over the past decade. Province-wide, drug crime has risen by 108 percent since 2007, and these two local police stations – Mahikeng and Mmabatho – have shown a five-fold and three-fold increase respectively.”
“At the same time there have been various reports of cross-border drug trafficking. Two years ago a truck was searched at the Kopfontein border post near Zeerust after sniffer dogs reacted. Custom officials found almost one-and-a-half million mandrax tablets worth nearly R80-million in a hidden compartment. They arrested two people – one Tanzanian and one Zambian national.
“One year earlier, 16 border police officers and three Home Affairs officials were arrested at the same border post for aiding smugglers and accepting bribes. You don’t have to be a detective to connect the dots. Given the massive spike in drug-related crime in the North West, we have to ask ourselves: what else have we been missing here? It has long been known that the border between Botswana and South Africa is like a drug highway – both into and out of South Africa.”
“A big part of the problem is that our borders are so easy to cross illegally. If we want to keep our children safe from drugs, then one of the first things we must do is to secure our borders.”