South Africa’s borders are completely exposed – ‘We are not safe’

The Department of Public Works has warned of the dire state of South Africa’s borders and the increasing security threats this poses the country.

In a presentation to parliament on Wednesday (14 October) Malusi Ganiso, director of town planning services at the Department of Public Works, said that government has failed to adequately address the country’s borders since coming into power in 1994.

“Since 1994 we have failed as (South Africa) to look after our borderline. Because of that ignorance, we have brought a big burden on South Africa in terms of the social-economic diaphragm.”

Ganiso said that government is now looking at a total border solution that meets international standards, to rectify the problems.

This will include the introduction of proper fencing as well as a patrol road along the country’s borders, he said.

“We can testify that the current situation at the country’s borderline is not looking good. We are not safe socially, economically or politically.

“In terms of war, we are ‘fragile’ in a way that anything could come to South Africa and we can be bombed. We have nothing at the borderline.”

Ganiso pointed to the below pictures which were taken during a recent site inspection by the department. “If you go to Lesotho and Swaziland there is nothing – no fence at (all) at the borderline,” he said.

As part of his presentation, Ganiso presented outlined some of the proposals and technologies that the government was looking at to secret the country’s borders, including kinematic and fibre detection.

  • Kinematic detection – This will see the introduction of kinetic detection sensors on the country’s border fences. These sensors are capable of detection within 4.5 metres of an attempted breach and a res supported by stainless steel field kiosks and a failover network. Mapping software will help provide the location of the alarm;
  • Fibre detection – This proposal will see the introduction of a fibre-optic cable within the perimeter fence, allowing for detection within a 2 metre breach. The technology has been installed across multiple international borders, including four East Schengen borders in Europe.

The presentation comes after the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) was rocked by a number of irregularities around the new Beitbridge border fence project.

The 40km stretch of fencing between South Africa and Zimbabwe was initially completed in May, but the project was marred by issues since inception, including questions around its procurement and the theft of fencing materials.

An investigation into the deal revealed a series of procurement and other irregularities perpetrated during the infrastructure delivery process.

This includes possible acts of fraud perpetrated by identified officials of the department and the border fence project service providers.

The investigation also showed that:

  • The procurement framework of bid specification, evaluation and adjudication was not properly followed;
  • The fence is not in compliance with the drawings and the specifications;
  • Project cost was exceeded by an amount of around R17 million;
  • Poor construction practices compromised the effectiveness of the fence as a deterrent for crossing the South African border with Zimbabwe;
  •  The investigation team said it considered the fence ‘not fit for purpose’ and current payments in this regard may already be regarded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Read: South African taxpayers spent R40 million on a fence that doesn’t work – what went wrong

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South Africa’s borders are completely exposed – ‘We are not safe’