Plea for faster erection of Jersey barriers by KZN Premier

4908

Border protection along a roughly 20 km section of the KwaZulu-Natal province’s international border with Mozambique was identified as a hijacked vehicle exit hotspot over 12 years ago.

Attempts to curb the illegal exit of stolen vehicles moved from low-tech in the form of large rocks positioned at known crossing points to what the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government calls Operation Siyahlola (“We are checking” in isiZulu), keeping track of progress on infrastructure and service delivery projects. In the Umkhanyakude District Municipality this entails placing prefabricated sections of reinforced concrete – known as Jersey barriers – at points where stolen vehicles are illegally moved to South Africa’s eastern neighbour where they aredestined either for chop-shops or illegal export.

As far back as November 2016, then Staff Officer Operational Planning at SA National Defence Force (SANDF) Joint Operations KZN tactical headquarters, Lieutenant Colonel “Wollie” Wolmarans, was desperate to stop or at least curb the exit of up to 80 vehicles a month. With insufficient manpower to patrol hotspots 24/7, he opted to use old railway sleepers as a barrier where the border fence was cut. A visit to Ndumo provided a light bulb moment which saw Wolmarans arrange with a quarry/crusher owner for unwanted material – rocks – to be collected by soldiers using Samil trucks fitted with cranes.

“The placement of rocks, simple as it seems, had a marked effect on vehicle recovery. Additional rocks are placed on a constant basis in different areas to close the gaps. The criminal is never sure which area is closed or safe to use,” he told defenceWeb at the time.

That work subsequently morphed into a provincial government project with support from the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) to the tune of R50 million committed in October 2020. The funding, it was reported, would be used to manufacture and position 156 Jersey barriers along an eight kilometre stretch of border.

SANews reports the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government, in the form of Premier Nomusa Dube-Ncube, wants the Jersey barrier project – part of the provincial Operation Siyahlola – to be fast-tracked.

The government news site has it the Jersey barriers, to go up along 25km of border in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality, was initiated in 2018 by the provincial government to “prevent easy egress for stolen vehicles and livestock.”

Speaking at an identified hotspot point of the border during a site inspection last week, she pointed out completion of the concrete slab foundation for the Jersey barrier is done and will enable “construction to move quicker”.

“We have directed the Department of Transport (DoT) to fast track the raising of the walls,” Dube-Ncube is reported as saying by SANews.

“As we announced during the State of the Province Address (SOPA), government is also pursuing diplomatic channels to co-ordinate strategic efforts to fight cross-border crime. We are working closely with the newly established Border Management Authority (BMA), the SAPS (South African Police Service) Specialised KZN Stabilising Team, Amakhosi and other crime fighting structures to address issues of criminality in the area.”

Dube-Ncube noted interventions have yielded positive results with “several high-profile criminals” arrested and facing prosecution.

“Several cars have been found stuck and abandoned some hanging on the Jersey barriers because syndicates could not take them across to Mozambique because of the high border walls,” SANews has Dube-Ncube saying.