Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane has received a complaint from the African Transformation Movement (ATM) to investigate the alleged maladministration and procurement irregularities regarding the R37 million Beitbridge border fence.
The fence was erected following a request from the Department of Defence and Veterans to repair and replace a 40km section of the fence amid the shutdown of SA’s borders and ports.
The 40km fence has been subject of criticism after recent photos showing it had been vandalised and poles allegedly stolen.
Fingers were immediately pointed at Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille, who in turn requested the auditor-general of South Africa, Kimi Makwetu, to investigate the project.
“In order to have greater assurance and full oversight, and further to address the public’s concerns, I am hereby respectfully requesting your good office to immediately commence with an external audit of the 40km Beitbridge Border Fence Project. I would appreciate it if the external audit could cover all aspects of the project process,” said De Lille in a statement.
The DA highly criticised De Lille’s department, saying the “washing line” it had erected exposed its “incompetence”.
“Once referred to as the ‘Snake of Fire’ because of the 2,800 volts that coursed through those unfortunate enough to come into contact with it, the original border fence was substantial, solid and close to impenetrable.
“But due to a lack of maintenance and the lacklustre monitoring of the border by the SANDF over the years, it had become as porous as a sieve. This has occurred, despite there being a 3 metre high double fence on either side of the electric fence that marked the border between the two countries.
“The advent of Covid-19 was supposed to address and change all that. The announcement by the Department of Public Works (DPWI) and Infrastructure Minister, Patricia de Lille, that repairs totalling R37 million would be effected to 40 kilometres of the border fence, should have signalled a new era in tackling our almost non-existent border. It would have ensured that kilometres of fencing stolen for animal kraals around the Beitbridge border area would have been replaced and restored,” said the party.
The DA submitted questions to De Lille around the appointment of the contractor and the specifications of the fence.
In the meantime, the SANDF has been deployed to increase security measures.