Two years on, SA Army Makhanda base fencing remains an unfunded project

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The registration of a “project” to fence parts of the Makhanda military base, home to 6 SA Infantry (SAI) Battalion, has not resulted in project execution, with lack of funding obstructing the project for the last two years.

This came to light via Defence and Military Veterans Minister Thandi Modise’s response to a Parliamentary question. Inkatha Freedom Party (IFP) MP Russel Cebekhulu asked for ministerial input on the Makhanda fence, in particular around the base’s training area.

He was informed, in writing, “the Chief of Logistics registered and approved the project to build a perimeter fence around the training area because it falls under his responsibility, but it was unable to be executed due to lack of funding”.

Two years ago to the month, Modise’s predecessor Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula (now National Assembly Speaker) told then Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian Annette Steyn, asking on behalf of the party’s shadow agriculture, land reform and rural development portfolio, the fence “was absent as it was stolen”. Mapisa-Nqakula told her questioner a project was registered and went out on tender via the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI). “The process was placed on hold due to insufficient funding.”

Modise’s reply to Cebekhulu, dated 11 April 2023, reads much the same stating “the project will be carried out depending on the availability of funds after it was unable to be executed owing to financial restrictions”.

Seemingly taking his cue from Steyn’s question two years ago, Cebekhulu also wanted Modise to update him on SANDF involvement in “collaborative anti-poaching efforts” in the area. He was told: “the SANDF is currently not involved in any collaborative anti-poaching efforts in the area with other departments due to roles and functions as well as boundary management”.

Steyn’s question to Mapisa-Nqakula two years ago also sought answers to wildlife poaching and stock theft in areas around the Makhanda military base. She was told “the SA Army is aware of complaints by farmers adjacent to the 6 SAI training area, centred on stock theft and illegal poaching, exacerbated by the absent perimeter fence and has reported this to the SANDF (SA National Defence Force)”.

The base was one of the stops on a recent visit by members of Parliament’s two defence oversight committees – the Joint Standing Committee on Defence (JSCD) and the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) – to Eastern Cape.