New Public Works Minister says Beitbridge fence was “a disaster” – report

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The failed Beitbridge fence project led by former Public Works and Infrastructure minister Patricia de Lille was “a total disaster” her successor said.

Sihle Zikalala, named as De Lille’s replacement by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his March Cabinet reshuffle, was at the busy port of entry between South Africa and Zimbabwe earlier this week on an inspection visit.

Johannesburg-based daily The Citizen reported Zikalala as saying “it was clear” the R40 million fence covering 30km either side of the actual port of entry, was neither “contextualised nor properly planned”.

“We will allow the broader management team to develop a plan on how to deal with the situation,” he said.

Democratic Alliance (DA) parliamentarian and shadow public works and infrastructure minister, Samantha Graham-Maré, who first shed light on the unfit-for-purpose fence, maintains De Lille’s departure should not be the end of the saga. She will continue asking questions and investigating the involvement of the former minister and an advisor.

“No-one has yet been held accountable for the ramshackle fence,” The Citizen reported adding local residents said fencing was stolen to fence kraals in Zimbabwe.

Zikalala said his department will take steps to fix problems around the border fence. He wants action taken against those responsible for the failures.

“It is one of those projects that have not gone well for government. We said we are not going to accept any wrongdoing but are going to attend to failures and ensure that where they are we improve,” he said.

“We want to see what steps can be taken going forward either to replace or rebuild where necessary and to ensure we follow and execute consequence management on those who did not do right,” the newspaper reported.