Government says it is bolstering border security

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The Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) is undertaking several initiatives to improve South Africa’s border security, including the construction of a new police station and concrete border fence.

Minister of Public Works and Infrastructure Sihle Zikalala told the media during a briefing in Pretoria earlier this week that government is attending to the issue of the state of the country’s ports of entry and the level of infrastructure rendering the borders to being porous.

Cross border intervention projects are being implemented and these include the construction of the Emanguzi Police Station near the border with Mozambique, which is expected to be completed in June this year.

The construction of the concrete border fence (using jersey barriers) has commenced in uMkhanyakude on the Mozambique border and “this will thwart the criminal syndicates that steal cars and transport them across the borders.”

In late 2020, the KwaZulu-Natal Department of Roads and Transport, working and financing in conjunction with the DWPI, committed R50 million for the manufacture and positioning of 156 concrete barrier units along an eight kilometre stretch of border between South Africa and Mozambique. The project was expected to cost in the region of R86 million. The 8 km project was placed on hold pending completion of a Special Investigative Unit investigation into the R85.7 million tender. The project came to an abrupt halt after only 166 metres of jersey barriers had been installed and R48 million had been paid to contractors, Daily Maverick reported.

The new concrete jersey barriers are being positioned in places identified by SA National Defence Force (SANDF) soldiers on border protection duty as high use and potential high use ones by vehicle thieves. There are 15 companies of troops safeguarding South Africa’s borders, particularly high-risk borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

Government is currently busy with a comprehensive border analysis process, auditing a number of areas including risk and security, fencing solutions, route determinations etc. The Minister said government will respond to all the hotspot areas.

The six Points of Entry (POEs) that are being prioritised to improve border management and securing include: Beitbridge (Zimbabwe border); Ficksburg Bridge (Lesotho border); Kopfontein (Lesotho border); Lebombo (Mozambique border); Maseru Bridge (Lesotho border); and Oshoek (Eswatini border).

The newly established Borth Management Authority (BMA) is also contributing to border safeguarding, and started deploying 200 border guards in July last year along five vulnerable sections of the borderline, working together with members of the SANDF.

The SANDF, meanwhile, is getting R700 million from National Treasury over the next three years for the procurement of vehicles and surveillance technology to protect the borders.

The ‘troop pack’ vehicles (at present Toyota Land Cruisers) will be replaced with off-the-shelf vehicles and R500 million will be spent in 2024/25 for this. The SANDF wants to replace the troop packs with armoured personnel carriers (APCs), which would serve with all 15 companies on Operation Corona border patrol duty.

R200 million worth of sensor technology is being acquired for the SANDF’s Operation Corona border safeguarding in 2025/6, and this includes a Geographic Information System (GIS) capability (R22.5 million); intelligence collection and processing capabilities (R47 million under Project Baobab); upgraded Chaka command and control system (R7.2 million); Reutech RSR 903 radars (R57 million); 60 observation posts (R16 million under Project Dominate); 16 quadcopter unmanned aerial vehicles (R16 million); and two long range UAVs (R24 million).