Construction underway of concrete border wall between SA and Mozambique

The KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government has resumed construction of a concrete barrier wall along the South Africa/Mozambique border to curb the theft of motor vehicles and the movement of illicit goods, after years of delays.

In late 2020, the KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) Department of Roads and Transport, working and financing in conjunction with the national Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DWPI), committed R50 million for the manufacture and positioning of concrete barrier units (jersey barriers) along a stretch of border between South Africa and Mozambique.

In a briefing to the Portfolio Committee on Defence and Military Veterans (PCDMV) on 6 March, the Department of Public Works & Infrastructure (DPWI) and KwaZulu-Natal Provincial Government gave an update on the progress of construction in the uMkhanyakude District Municipality in northern KZN, where more than 5 km of border wall has already been completed.

The initial 8 km project had in 2021 been placed on hold pending completion of a Special Investigative Unit investigation into the R85.7 million tender awarded to ISF Construction and Shula Construction by the KZN Department of Transport. The project came to a halt after R48 million had been paid to contractors.

The issue “remained inactive since 2021” but was brought back to the forefront during May 2023 meetings between key stakeholders, the DPWI told the PCDMV. “The province has resuscitated the project and on course to conclude phase 1,” which is an 8 km stretch along the KZN/Mozambique border.

Following environmental impact assessments and “massive social pressure which was ignited by the killing of prominent community leaders who stood against the crime syndicates stealing vehicles and crossing them over to Mozambique border, KZN Department of Transport has resuscitated the border and appointed a contractor to complete the outstanding works for phase 1. The project commenced on the 17th of November 2023 and has a duration of 12 months.” A new contractor was announced in July last year.

Phase 1 – the 8 km long barrier near Tembe Elephant Park – will be followed by phase 2 covering 8 km near iSimangaliso Wetland Park and phase 3 covering 9 km from the western boundary of Tembe Elephant Park towards Pongolo River. Phases 2 and 3 are estimated to cost R270 million and take 24 months, starting from September 2024, but discussions still need to be finalised, the DPWI said.

With regard to phase 1, “the works on the construction site are currently underway. The impact of the project has been received positively by the community and the South African National Defence Force,” the DPWI and KZN presentation read.

That the barrier is already foiling crime was emphasised by a failed attempt to drive a stolen SUV over the barrier using ‘iron ladders’. It appears the ladders buckled, causing criminals to set the vehicle on fire to destroy evidence.

New concrete jersey barriers are being positioned in places identified by SA National Defence Force soldiers on border protection duty as high use and potential high use ones by vehicle thieves. There are 15 companies of troops safeguarding South Africa’s borders, particularly high-risk borders with Mozambique, Zimbabwe and Lesotho.

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