De Lille defends Beit Bridge fence upgrade


Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille  maintains the rush job to upgrade 40 km of border fencing adjacent to the Beit Bride port of entry had its own lessons – “as with any construction project”.

These included, according to a lengthy Ministerial statement, short timeframes, dealing with the risk of the COVID-19 coronavirus and security issues on site. She also notes “as is widely known, the border fence line has been subject to criminal activities which resulted in procurement of additional security personnel and the deployment of ‘SANDF officials’ to provide additional security support”.

According to De Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), all work on the fence, 20 km each side of the border post, will be complete by today (Monday, 20 April).

De Lille’s statement points out one of the interventions required by her department contributing to the national lockdown and its various protocols and regulations was “to identify critical areas related to our land borders that need to be immediately secured to mitigate the spread of the virus both in and out of our country”. This saw emergency procurement procedures invoked to ensure work started as soon as possible on the R37 million contract with a one month completion date set.

It continues: “DPWI met with DoD (Department of Defence) and agreed on the scope of work under the State of Disaster where DPWI was requested to repair and replace the existing fence for 40 km identified as the critical area in terms of the work needed in response to COVID-19.

“Due to the existing border fence being in a bad state, the objective was to replace and repair the existing fence.

“We are aware the border is vast spanning 700 km between South Africa and Zimbabwe and there is a long term project underway between various departments that will see securing of the border, currently in Stage One Inception phase of the project cycle.

“It was important to act swiftly for the COVID-19 solution and have a first line barrier, while planning further with DoD for future needs. The specification includes 1.8 m high razor mesh fence, with six razor coils outside the fence and installation of gates and stream crossings. Main and intermediate posts planted in concrete, with Y-standards and four upsized straining wire strands.

“This intervention in relation to COVID-19 was to ensure no persons cross into or out of the country as part of efforts to contain the spread of the virus. As with any person or any country in the world, there are official ports of entry into countries.”

De Lille adds she was “advised by DPWI administration that in emergency situations and in line with emergency procurement measures under the State of Disaster, (National) Treasury regulations permit deviations from normal procurement processes. This includes deviation from the requirement to advertise for bids in the Government Tender Bulletin”.

The choice of “nomination for procurement was suitable given the urgency”.

The “nominated service provider” (contractor) was working on a repair and maintenance project at Beit Bridge.

“This meant mobilisation and establishment for the work could be done seamlessly, the most important consideration for procurement, considering its urgency.”