The arrival of the coronavirus pandemic in South Africa triggered a host of government actions ranging from appeals for self-isolation through to price controls and fines for breaking the newly instituted regulations.
Then there is a directive by Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille that will see work starting immediately on a 40 km long stretch of fence at the Beit Bridge port of entry.
In a statement her department said erection of the fence was “a key intervention” by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) and “in line with measures that South Africa’s borders and ports are to be secured with immediate effect”.
When he declared a national state of disaster on Sunday, President Cyril Ramaphosa indicated the security at the country’s ports of entry was important. This included closing 35 land entry points.
In the DPWI statement, De Lille is quoted as saying “this will not be effective if fences at the border are not secure which, in many places, they are not”.
She invoked emergency procurement procedures to erect and repair fences east and west of the Beit Bridge port of entry with Zimbabwe.
“On Tuesday 17 March due diligence and site inspections were undertaken between DPWI, the Department of Defence (DoD) and the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). It was identified that a total of 40 km of 1.8 m high fence has to be erected, 20 km on either side of the Beit Bridge land port of entry. On Wednesday specifications were finalised, all emergency supply chain management processes undertaken and the contractor appointed.”
The site was handed to the contractor on Thursday with instructions to “substantially increase the number of teams deployed and the rate of delivery tenfold”.
De Lille said the fence project will cost R37.2 million and will be completed in a month.
The decision to up security around Beit Bridge was welcomed by Freedom Front Plus (FF+) health spokesman Philip van Staden. He told defenceWeb it was “a step in the right direction” following submission of questions to Health Minister Zweli Mkhize on plugging gaps in the national land border South Africa shares with Botswana, eSwatini, Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe .
This tasking is executed by SA Army units as Operation Corona and it currently sees 15 companies deployed along the four thousand kilometre plus stretch of land patrolling on foot and in soft skin vehicles.