Beit Bridge fence will not be repaired – De Lille

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Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille told the National Council of Provinces (NCOP) the by-now infamous 40 km stretch of fencing adjacent to the Beit Bridge port of entry will not be repaired as it is reportedly “not fit for purpose” as well as not complying with specifications.

She is reported as saying further border fence projects will involve other (government) departments.

“Why?” Samantha Graham-Maré, Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow public works and infrastructure minister, asks.

“Looking at departments and agencies that are part of the Border Management Authority (BMA), De Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is not one of them. This means it will not be part of the strategy, only the implementer, if the BMA (Border Management Authority) is responsible for securing borders.

“With this in mind, I believe more clarity is needed over who does what in the border situation,” she told defenceWeb.

The confusion goes further with DPWI Acting Director-General Imtiaz Fazel in February reported as saying Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula’s Department of Defence and Military Veterans (DoDMV) would lead in future border fence initiatives.

African Defence Review (ADR) director Darren Olivier asked at the time what “being led” by the DoDMV means.

“Will DPWI continue to control actual implementation, but play a secondary role when it comes to requirements? If so, how does the funding situation change? As the setter of requirements, does it mean the DoD now has to shoulder costs? These questions have to be properly addressed and answered in view of the funding deficit the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) is and will continue experiencing.”

An option he suggests is to build capacity in the SANDF Works Formation – obviously dependent on available funding.

Graham-Maré points out De Lille’s department is working on an integrated border solution.

“While it appears to be an exciting, state-of-the-art concept I believe we are looking at first world solutions that do not address third world problems. Unless we deal with what is happening in countries outside our borders, we will never prevent illegal border crossings, no matter how innovative and state-of-the-art the solutions.”

She also raises concerns about the costs involved pointing out the upgrade to the fence immediately adjacent to the Beit Bridge port of entry cost in excess of R37 million. “Months ago I asked during a portfolio committee meeting when we were advised even more damage had been done to the new Beit Bridge fence, why good money was being thrown after bad. The fence was and still is, sub-standard. To spend more on it is, in my opinion, fruitless expenditure,” she said.

The DA parliamentarian is also critical of Jersey barriers erected at the Kosi Bay port of entry in northern KwaZulu-Natal.

“They only prevent vehicle crossings and people still come and go. To my mind it was extremely expensive and does half the job at R86 million for five kilometres.”

As with others in her party involved with border control, Graham-Maré is waiting for indications of when and what the BMA will do, in view of it being placed on the Statute Book in July last year.

One of them is Adrian Roos, shadow deputy minister of home affairs. In February he asked why there was no project plan for funding with deadlines for the latest addition to the list of government agencies.

“The BMA came into effect in December. Additionally it – as a function – has been in place for the full term of Home Affairs Minister Aaron Motsoaledi to date,” he told defenceWeb referring to a December 2014 Cabinet directive making the Department of Home Affairs (DHA) responsible for co-ordinating all border law enforcement entities in South Africa.