A four week-long fact-finding mission looking into South Africa’s land borders by the Democratic Alliance (DA) has, according to the political party, brought “alarming” issues to light and “painted a grim picture” of failure.
Jacques Julius, the party’s spokesman on immigration said there were five main issues raised. These were illegal cross-border trading; allegations of social grant fraud; hijacking syndicates; and as far as the national defence force border protection deployment was concerned, poor military patrolling and porous, unfenced borders.
At the Beit Bridge border point between South Africa and Zimbabwe, Julius said they found areas where the fence had been cut through as well as an open and unmanned gate large enough for a truck to drive through.
“Standing along our border, we were able to capture footage of people on the other side of the border watching the South African side. From there they could see SANDF patrols arriving and leaving and thus ascertain the best time to cross undetected,” he said.
Soldiers spoken to on the KwaZulu-Natal/Mozambique border told Julius and his group there was a “crucial need” for a proper fence as well land to be cleared at last 100 metres from the fence. Other items on the soldiers’ wish list included watch towers, infrared equipment and drones.
“We also engaged with terrified communities who are being taken advantage of by carjacking syndicates. It emerged in conversation with SANDF members we encountered there may well be powerful individuals in law enforcement working with the syndicates, making it impossible to effectively police these crimes and end the syndicates,” he said.
At the Skilpadshek border with Botswana in North West Julius was told by a national defence force officer the road along the border was “inaccessible to the military”.
He echoed the comments of his fellow soldiers in KwaZulu-Natal about the lack of adequate fencing to serve at least as a basic deterrent.
Julius said it was obvious the SANDF was “thinly spread” along South Africa’s 4 800km of land borders with Botswana, eSwatini (formerly Swaziland), Lesotho, Mozambique, Namibia and Zimbabwe.
One outcome of the visit will be a request to meet with South Africa’s top soldier, General Solly Shoke, to discuss “concerns and challenges faced” by soldiers deployed on border protection. The DA also plans to approach newly appointed Home Affairs Minister Siyabonga Cwele and “invite him to see the effect of Home Affairs corruption at border posts”.