An investigation by television news broadcaster ENCA has revealed how shockingly easy it is for would-be illegal border jumpers to get in and out of South Africa – for as little as R1,000.
After being denied access to view the condition of the border fence at the controversial Beitbridge border between South Africa and Zimbabwe, ENCA journalist Lindokuhle Xulu sought assistance from an ‘escort’ to hop the fence himself.
The journalist documented his journey in a short piece for ENCA, in which he:
- Encountered a number of escorts looking for clients;
- Easily crossed the border through a broken fence,
- Witnessed border crossers moving in both directions; and
- Crossed a river into Zimbabwe.
Illegal border crossing was thrust into the spotlight this week, after it was speculated that Malawian ‘prophet’ Shepherd Bushiri and his wife Mary had fled the country through the border, violating stringent bail conditions.
The Beitbridge border fence has also been the centre of a wasteful spending scandal at the Department of Public Works, where it was found that R40 million was spent to erect a 40km-long fence separating South Africa and Zimbabwe.
While the fence was initially completed in May, the project was marred by issues 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 included 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 payments in this regard could be regarded as fruitless and wasteful expenditure.
In a presentation to Parliament in October, Malusi Ganiso, director of town planning services at the Department of Public Works, said that the government 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.”
“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.”