Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille has confirmed that “criminal elements” have damaged part of a newly installed/repaired South Africa-Zimbabwe border fence.
An image of the damaged fence surfaced on social media on Monday. The “criminal elements” appear to have cut through the metallic mesh.
Writing on Twitter, de Lille said, “With regard to the Beitbridge border fence which DPWI is erecting and criminal elements damaging the fence: I am investigating this matter. The contractor has increased security personnel. The Defence Force has also deployed soldiers to patrol the border.”
‘Surveillance, sensors and alarms’
She added, “This was a project by DPWI to secure the borders and repair and replace the fence which has been badly damaged. I have requested that the Department of Defence increase security measures as reinforcement to protect our borders especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“For the Beitbridge border fence, we are also considering additional deterring methods such as surveillance, sensors and alarms.”
In March, de Lille said the government had invoked emergency procurement procedures to install and repair border fences east and west of South Africa’s Beitbridge border post with Zimbabwe.
She said the decision was part of government’s efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, adding, “This is to ensure that no undocumented or infected persons cross into the country and vice-versa.”
40km at a cost of R37 million
De Lille said a multi-departmental team had made site inspections and decided that 1.8m-high fences had to be erected or repaired for 40km on either side of the border post.
She added that the project would cost approximately R37.2 million and would be completed within one month.
The government has implemented a raft of measures to contain the spread of COVID-19, including travel bans as well as closures of 37 land and sea ports of entry.
The Beitbridge border post, the only one with Zimbabwe and one of the busiest in the country, is however not affected by the closures.
Social media users have expressed outrage at the apparent ease with which the border fence was vandalised.
Blessings Ramoba, the President of the Mining Forum of SA, tweeted, “We need a wall and electric fencing systems with monitored zones that set off alarms and pin points where exactly the breach is. We have this technology. We use it all the time.”