Mon. Jan 24th, 2022

Beitbridge border security needs should undergo serious reforms

3 min read

The infamous “washing line” fence erected at the Beitbridge border post remains the subject of intense frustration for the Democratic Alliance (DA), who say that SA’s border security must be urgently improved. 

An oversight inspection conducted by Kobus Marais, the DA’s Shadow Minister of Defence left him enraged at the plethora of issues on show, and he has called for intervention by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI), as well as Minister of Defence and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula.

BEITBRIDGE ‘RIFE WITH FENCE DAMAGE’  

Marais said that the inspection – in which he was accompanied by the Joint Standing Committee on Defence and the parliamentary Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans to the Zimbabwean and Mozambican border posts – left a lot to be desired. 

“The infamous ‘washing line’ that was constructed this year to serve as our border with Zimbabwe, has been damaged to such an extent that I stopped counting at 100 illegal passages as we drove to Beitbridge,” he said. 

“Everywhere illegal border crossings are rife because our border fences are simply not up to the task of keeping illegal immigrants from jumping it. From poorly constructed wire fences that are falling down to gaps in fences that should have been fixed ages ago.”

He also said that the members of the South African Defence Force (SANDF) guarding the border urgently require vehicles and equipment adapted for the various terrains around the borders. 

“The vehicles need to be specialised and the off-the-shelf soft-shell vehicles that SANDF are forced to use currently, are not up to the task and put the soldiers’ lives in potential danger.”

‘DEPARTMENTS MUST CONVENE TO TACKLE BEITBRIDGE INADEQUACIES’

He said that in order to address these glaring issues, the DPWI, the Department of Defence and Military Veterans, as well as the Department of International Relations and Cooperation (DIRCO) to convene an urgent meeting to “implement viable long-term and short-term solutions to once again safeguard South Africa’s borders”.

“DIRCO must also urgently meet with its counterparts in Zimbabwe and Mozambique to broker bilateral agreements that will ensure the neighbouring countries also take responsibility for the maintenance of their side of the border fence,” said Marais. 

“The porous nature of the borders should be a serious concern to all nations involved.”

“By curbing unnecessary spending and prioritising equipment and personnel to the borders, the Defence Minister will certainly address at least some of the issues at the borders.”

UPGRADES URGENTLY REQUIRED  

According to Marais and the DA, these urgently required additions include: 

  • armoured personnel carriers (APCs);
  • unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs);
  • modern sensors and night vision equipment;
  • high quality army boots;
  • Equipment that will give them ready access to clean water;
  • The ability to do regular maintenance without unnecessary red tape encumbering the process;
  • Increased SANDF units guarding the border from 15 units to at least 22; and
  • Air support at the borders.

He said that increased funding for the urgent upgrades are “something that should not be too difficult to finance” in reference to Nqakula’s recent “Uber-trip” to Zimbabwe on a SANDF plane. 

“There is always money in the budget for the air force if you have the political will,” he said. 

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