The National Council Standing Committee on Home Affairs, Security, Constitutional and Legal Affairs (HASCLA) conducted oversight visits to several national border posts across the country to assess the status of the borders from the 7th to the 25th of March 2022. The oversight activity was two-fold, as while on the visit to gazetted border posts, the Standing Committee also assessed the status of stateless citizens and the issuance of national documents.
The border posts visits commenced in the Hardap region with a courtesy call on the office of the Governor, where the Standing Committee was met by Senior Staff of the Hardap Regional Council. This was followed by a visit to the Mata-Mata border posts where the Standing Committee assessed the infrastructure and operations of the border post, after which a community meeting in Gochas was held. At the meeting, community members aired their plight concerning obtaining national documents, particularly the elderly who up to date only have South African national documents and are thus unable to benefit from state grants. The challenge, they said, is the distance and cost of obtaining new documents that hampers them in doing so.
In Omaheke region, The Committee met the Governor, Hon. Pijoo Nganate, to inform on the purpose of the meeting and expected outcomes. At the briefing, several issues were raised, such as the lack of land at Buitepos that hampers effective border operations and with respect to civil registration, challenges in the registration of births especially among the San community.
At Buitepos, officials notified the Committee on a number of challenges, including shortage of staff, that the borderline between Namibia and Botswana south from Buitepos is neglected and damaged and they also highlighted the need for a unified One Stop Border Post (OSBP) for Namibian borders. As one of the busiest border posts in the country, the officials manning the border post pleaded for the border to be prioritized, as there are no scanner lights, proper security or shading which makes it difficult to control this key entry and exit point into Namibia. The border officials also stated that they were not thoroughly protected against Covid 19.
From Omaheke, the HASCLA Standing Committee proceeded to the Kavango East and West regions, where they visited the Sarasungu, Katwitwi and Nkurenkuru Border Posts respectively. Similar challenges were identified. However, what was new was that two of the border posts were temporary structures yet to be upgraded, and with very limited resources. A key challenge was staff shortage and lack of proper ablution facilities. The Nkurenkuru border post is said to be the busiest in both the Kavango Regions. In the week leading up to the Committee’s oversight visit there, over 1000 people were cleared for entry and exit. Despite these figures, the border remains the most understaffed. The high number of movement is due to the fact that the basic needs of Angolans living along the border are in Namibia. These services include shopping, schooling, and health care. Officials at the border say they do not know where the border begins or ends, as there are no clear markers. In addition, de-bushing needs to take place to clear land along the border line as currently, the thick bush makes it near impossible for one to know whether you are in Angola or Namibia. The border officials called for identifiable international border beacons placed along the Nkurenkuru border post to uphold the territorial integrity of the country. Other challenges identified are a lack of proper office space and accommodation, ablution facilities and vehicles to conduct proper patrols.
At Katwitwi, the committee discovered that there was no running water at the border post due to faulty boreholes. The border does not receive a lot of traffic other then trucks passing through carrying timber. The timber is however not properly weighed due to a lack of proper infrastructure. There are also no scanners to scan trucks, small vehicles or people. Security guards assist officials in the physical inspection of trucks and this makes it very difficult to detect illegal substances. In Zambezi region, the Katima Mulilo Border Post, also known as Wenele Border is very porous, expect for motor vehicles, there is no control over the crossing of people between the two countries. Vandalised fences are many and clearly visible for anyone who chooses to use them. The recurrent shortage of staff was identified as a major challenge, as was raised at all border posts.
The Oversight inspections in the three regions were preceded by a meeting with senior officials from the Ministry of Home Affairs, Immigration, Security and Security responsible for Kavango East and West as well as the Zambezi region who highlighted the status of their regions in terms of border control as well as the issuance of national documents.
On the issue of national documents, the Committee learned that the Kavango regions have the highest number of home births. After birth, the parents delay in registering their children because of the long travelling distances it takes to do so as well as the costs in getting to these places, resulting in a high number of undocumented people. A large number of community members do not have national documents because they are unable to provide the necessary documents required to obtain national documents, a matter which was also prevalent in the Zambezi region, where a meeting held to address the concerns of undocumented Namibians found a large number of foreign nationals, mostly from neighbouring Zambia. The illegal immigrants claim they came to Namibia as cattle herders or with their parents who came to find work. With time, they too started having their own children who are now also undocumented.
The oversight visits proceeded to the Ohangwena and Omusati regions. At the Courtesy Call, the Governor, Hon. Walde Ndevashiya stated that due to the inter-relations, people move freely because the borders are porous in his region. The Governor stated that the socio-economic situation in both countries has resulted in the high number of illegal immigrants, with Angolans coming to seek medical and educational opportunities and Namibians seeking grazing land for their livestock in Angola. The Oshikango Border Post is the only gazetted border point in Ohangwena region, something the Governor said may need to be relooked. The final leg of the three-week intensive exercise concluded in the Omusati region at Kashamane Border Post where the exchange of people and goods is still not taking place, except for school children. This is due to the fact that although the border was declared open on the Namibian side, Angolan authorities are yet to comply with a directive from a joint meeting which set 14 February as the date for which the border was to open. Issues raised were that there is no fence along the border and cuca shops and homes are built right on the border line. In addition, lack of transport and scanners has rendered the border post minimally secured. The officials recommend that ungazetted border posts be formalized to allow Immigration officials to issue travel passes in order to reduce the travelling distance of communities.
The Standing Committee will table a full report on their oversight activity before the House when sitting resumes in May. The Committee is led by the Chairperson, John Musialela Likando and Deputised by Hon. Andreas Uutoni. Other Members are Hon. Elkan Hainghumbi, Hon. Tjimutambo Daniel Kuuoko, Hon. Phillemon Ndjambula and Hon. Phillipus Nkore Mavara. From the Secretariat, the Committee is supported by Chief Parliamentary Clerk, Ms. Wendilinus Kausiona and Mr. Bonifatius Amadhila, the Parliamentary Clerk.