Patrol and intelligence gathering work on at least one section of South Africa’s land border is being made easier by installation of concrete Jersey barriers to hamper and prevent stolen vehicles leaving South Africa, bound for the chop-shops and ports of Mozambique.
The KwaZulu-Natal Department of Roads and Transport, working and financing in conjunction with the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DWPI), committed R50 million for the manufacture and positioning of 156 of the barrier units along an eight kilometre stretch of border between South Africa and its eastern neighbour.
Five years ago the area was noted as a hotspot for stolen vehicles to be taken out of South Africa. Intelligence collected by soldiers on patrol and from local residents assisted in identifying specific areas used by vehicle thieves and led to what an SA Army officer later called “a light bulb moment”.
That came when Lieutenant Colonel “Wollie” Wolmarans saw a pile of unused rocks in a quarry. He asked and was told “you’re welcome” which saw a rudimentary but effective barrier placed in the way of vehicle thieves. The rocks, more smallish boulders in size, were loaded onto Samils and moved to where they would be most effective in preventing vehicular progress.
Following the highlighting of the low-tech solution in Parliament earlier this year by Democratic Alliance (DA) shadow deputy public works and infrastructure minister Samantha Graham-Maré, the outcome was an oversight visit to northern KwaZulu-Natal by the Public Works and Infrastructure Portfolio Committee. Ahead of the visit, Defence and Military Veterans Minister Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, indicated via a written answer to a Parliamentary question, that the rocks were “a tactical intervention” which was upped to the placement of on-site made Jersey barriers.
Graham-Maré told defenceWeb the initial contract would see 156 Jersey barriers made with work about half done earlier this month.
“The Jersey barrier project is implemented by the provincial roads and transport department with DWPI committing R50 million. The project is expected to cost of the region of R86 million with, at present, no indication of where the extra money will come from,” she said.
The new concrete Jersey barriers are positioned in places identified by soldiers as high use and potential high use ones by vehicle thieves. “Positioning and installation is done by a sub-contractor under the guidance of soldiers deployed on Operation Corona border protection duty in the area,” she added.
There has been no indication from the Joint Operations Division of the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) as to whether use of Jersey barriers will be considered along other sectors of South Africa’s more than four thousand kilometres of land border.