More questions than answers about Beit Bridge fence upgrade


The initial round of Parliamentary scrutiny of the Beit Bridge border fence upgrade was “farcical” with just two minutes allowed for questions on three different reports.

Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy public works and infrastructure minister Samantha Graham-Mare has led the charge to investigate all aspects of the newly erected fence. Apart from this week’s Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, the R37 million “emergency” project will be the subject of an investigation by Auditor General Kimi Makwetu. This is at the request of Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille.

Addressing the portfolio committee De Lille is reported to have said: “The fence was hardly up for one day and the crooks came through with cases of cigarettes and smuggled food. What must be condemned in the strongest possible terms is the criminality taking place on our borders. The crooks are always a step ahead of us and where we were asked to replace the fence was specifically what they call hotspots”.

According to TimesLive, De Lille asked Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula to “make the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) available to patrol the fence regularly”.

“The SANDF is there on bikes (motorcycles), they drive up there but the crooks know where and when to strike. It is big problem at our borders we need to address going into the future to make sure with the help of other countries, we secure the borders of South Africa,” De Lille said.

In an earlier statement on the fence being breached while still under construction, de Lille indicated “a long term project is underway between various departments that will see securing of the borders that is currently in the Stage 1-Inception phase of the project cycle”.

Questions about this project to the head of communication at the Department of Defence (DoD) were referred to the Joint Operations Division even though De Lille made it clear government departments and not divisions or sections are involved.

Freedom Front Plus (FF+) leader, Pieter Groenewald, said neither he nor any of his party’s parliamentary representatives had “any knowledge of such a project”. He subsequently posed an official question to the Public Works and Infrastructure minister asking for more information.

Graham-Mare maintains the Public Works and Infrastructure portfolio committee’s “consensus” for an oversight visit to the fence is wasteful.

“None of us are engineers.  What do we hope to establish that we can’t see from pictures and reports?  A visual inspection is not going to reveal anything,” she said.