Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille’s apparently well-intentioned upgrade of 40 km of border fence in the national interest backfired as far as cost and deterrent effectiveness is concerned.
Allegations regarding the contractor appointed to erect 40 km of new security fencing adjacent to the Beit Bridge port of entry saw oversight visits to the border by three Parliamentary portfolio committees last week. The visits followed a Special Investigating Unit (SIU) report.
Visits by the Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA), the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure and the Portfolio Committee on Home Affairs, confirm the new 40 km Beit Bridge border fence is not fit for purpose. All three committees are calling for “urgent consequence management against those implicated in wrongdoing in relation to construction of the fence” according to a Parliamentary Communication Services statement.
“The prescriptive nature of the directive issued by the Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure, remains a concern and the committees are waiting for an extensive report to explain the circumstances and motivation behind the directive for the construction of the fence.
“The committees raised concerns over contraventions of the National Environmental Management Act when the fence was constructed. Also, according to the committees, the fact that there was no site clearance for construction is testament to an assortment of transgressions in the fence construction project.”
The R37 million fence was given the green light by De Lille as part of her department’s commitment to preventing the spread of coronavirus in South Africa in the early days of the national state of disaster. She expressed her anger at “crooks” who breached the new fence soon after it was completed and called for extra military patrols in the vicinity of the country’s sole official port of entry with Zimbabwe.
Democratic Alliance (DA) MP, Samantha Graham-Maré, the first public representative to publicly criticise the fence, said de Lille did not follow the law and flouted procedures failing to uphold her oath of office.
“Despite the Minister claiming high and low investigations would absolve her from wrongdoing and that she had no role in the procurement of the new fence – the SIU report clearly states the opposite,” the deputy shadow public works and infrastructure minister said.