SA border infrastructure upgrade projected to cost R5 billion


“Long term borderline infrastructure” is the description given by Minister Patricia de Lille’s Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DWPI) in an ambitious presentation to Parliament’s designated oversight committee.

The “securing the borderline” component relates to fencing and patrol roads with the public works and infrastructure portfolio committee this week hearing site clearance for integrated  borderline fencing and  patrol roads  is currently underway for borderlines patrolled by the SA National Defence Force (SANDF). At present this task covers approximately 700 km of the South Africa/Zimbabwe border, approximately 600 km of the Lesotho/South Africa border and about 600 km of South Africa’s land border with eSwatini and Mozambique, as per the DWPI presentation.

It goes on to state border fencing will happen in three phases. They are pre-planning in terms of town planning which includes, among others, site identification, ownership and land use rights. “Planning for the upgrade and redevelopment of borderline fences” will see design and specification development, design and costing as well as approval, funding and budget confirmation with a distant phase three the actual construction of fences along around 1 900 km of land border. No timeframe is given in the presentation.

Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Samantha Graham-Maré, who serves on the public works and infrastructure portfolio committee, said the DWPI border management concept will require “at this stage in the region of R5 billion to complete”.

“I understand an application has been made to Infrastructure South Africa for funding assistance so it is down to wait and see,” she said.

The portfolio committee was requested by De Lille’s department to note progress on the investigation into “emergency procurement and implementation of the 40 km borderline infrastructure project between South Africa and Zimbabwe at Beitbridge border post (Border Fence Project)”.

This fence was breached even before the erection phase was completed and forensic and other investigations to date revealed the contractor was not correctly appointed (even though the project was deemed an emergency one in terms of the national state of disaster to combat coronavirus), it was not built to specification and cost the taxpayers far more than it should have.

Late last month, the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans undertook an oversight tour which included three specific border stops, one of them Beit Bridge.

DA shadow defence and military veterans minister Kobus Marais said the “so-called fence procured for the national state of disaster was so damaged I stopped counting at 100 breaks and breaches in it”.

“Illegal border crossings are rife because our border fences are simply not up to the task of keeping illegal immigrants out. There are poorly constructed wire fences falling down and other sections where gaps in fences that should have been fixed ages ago now appear to be permanent,” he told defenceWeb, adding Minister de Lille’s technical team would do well to have a closer look at fencing in and around the Lebombo port of entry which appears “a lot more solid”.

Marais suggests South Africa’s foreign relations specialists, under the leadership of international relations and co-operation minister Naledi Pandor, initially meet their Mozambican and Zimbabwean counterparts to broker some sort of bilateral agreement. This he sees as a way for neighbouring countries to take responsibility for maintenance on their side of the border.