Porous land borders and their effect on South African National Security

Journal Title
Journal ISSN
Volume Title
Stellenbosch : Stellenbosch University
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: South Africa currently experiences a high volume of irregular migration from neighbouring African countries and other countries further afield. This type of migration is linked globally to human trafficking, extremism, cross-border crime, drug trafficking, and other undesirable political, economic and social issues. Worldwide there is a perception that South Africa’s borders are porous and thus exploited by criminal syndicates. Evidence exists of countless undocumented people who got apprehended by SA law enforcement authorities inside the country. Consequently, this study aims to investigate the causes of porous land border in South Africa, the threats presented by porous land borders, and the land border areas that need diplomatic and security attention. To gain more insight in this matter, eight in-depth, semi-structured interviews were conducted with SANDF military strategy developers, military strategy implementers and experts at the operational level, professional people who are responsible for fulfilling the role of land border safeguarding. To enhance the rigour of the study, the underlying principles of the Copenhagen School of thought, and the Lee’s push-pull theory, the lenses through which the study was approached, were linked to the findings of the study. Furthermore, various sources were used to collect secondary data, which then were triangulated with findings of research interview findings to strengthen the validity and the reliability of the study. The data was recorded, transcribed and analysed manually through thematic analysis. Themes and patterns identified were labelled in the form of a word, a sentence, phrase or a couple of sentences. The findings of the study illustrated that the main causes of porous land borders in South Africa are a lack of resources, the length and material condition of the border, uncoordinated intelligence, corrupt government officials, the colonial border legacy, liberalist migration policies and laws, lack of integrated overarching national security strategy, the large South African informal employment sector, and ineffective cooperation and collaboration between SA departments of state at national strategic level and parallel departments in neighbouring countries. Pull factors that promote the violation of borders include the fact that human rights are guaranteed in South Africa; that South Africa is a country with a liberal democracy; that, despite its challenges, South Africa is still perceived as a country socio-economically and politically exceeding other countries in Africa; that South Africa has an infrastructure largely unmatched on the continent. Factors identified as pushing nationals away from their respective home countries in Africa towards South Africa are: poverty and hardship, violence, civil-military conflicts, wars, poor economic conditions and associated poor living conditions. Paradoxically, escaping from these factors to a country with perceived solutions in turn creates emerging threats in the target country, such as economic threats, societal threats, political threats and environmental threats. These threats to the national security of South Africa are closely linked to her porous land borders. The borders between Mozambique and South Africa, Zimbabwe and South Africa and Lesotho and South Africa were identified as being the most porous land borders that require urgent attention from governments involved. Building from these findings, the South African government should prioritise its territorial integrity and border protection as one of its vital interests. While addressing the internal factors attributed to porous land borders, the government should also focus its efforts on stabilising and assisting in the political and economic situation of its neighbouring countries, especially Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Lesotho. These countries can play a vital role in becoming a buffer and a first physical line of defence to South Africa in stopping illegal immigrants and contraband before reaching South Africa’s porous land borders. The research contended that South Africa should pursue its interest in territorial integrity and border protection through bilateral cooperation, since it is easier to reach a bilateral agreement than pursuing multilateral security initiatives.
AFRIKAANSE OPSOMMING: Geen Afrikaanse opsomming beskikbaar.
Thesis (MMil)--Stellenbosch University, 2021.
Border security -- South Africa, Border patrol -- South Africa, National security -- South Africa, South Africa National Defense Force, SANDF, National security -- South Africa, Noncitizens -- South Africa, Border crossing -- South Africa, Illegal immigration -- South Africa, UCTD