The Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure yesterday (10 October 2020) visited the Jersey Barrier Wall Project at the border between South Africa and Mozambique in KwaZulu-Natal.
The Chairperson of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure, Ms Nolitha Ntobongwana, said amongst the primary objectives of the visit is to ensure an effective oversight over the executive. "The committee aims to visit all the borders to ensure that they are properly managed for the protection of our country," emphasised Ms Ntobongwana.
Furthermore, the committee is also on a mission to look at ways on how to draw lessons from the Beitbridge border post incident. "We saw the shortcomings at Beitbridge in Limpopo and we are here to compare the two borders to see if there are no lessons to be learnt," said Ms Ntobongwana.
The Jersey Barrier Wall Project is situated in Kosi Bay in the KwaZulu-Natal's (KZN's) Umkhanyakude District Municipality. It starts at the boundary of iSimangaliso Wetland Park and ends at the Pongola River, excluding the area covered by the Tembe Elephant Park.
The committee was informed that the project is undertaken to address numerous complaints from the communities that are living in the Umkhanyakude District Municipality. The communities say they are continuously victimised by criminal syndicates who are stealing and hijacking vehicles and illegally passing them over the RSA/Mozambican border.
"These communities indicated that living in this area has become intensely unbearable and they called for the intervention of the government," said the Acting Director-General of the KZN's Department of Transport, Mr Simphiwe Nkosi.
Mr Nkosi told the committee that the department was tasked to find solutions on the ongoing rampant border crimes which included the theft of approximately 30 South African vehicles a month.
The Jersey Barrier Wall Project covers a distance of 25 km along the national border. The project has been separated into three phases. The first phase, which has been declared a hotspot due to high criminal activities, is 8 km from Gate 6. This phase moves in the western direction towards Tembe Elephant Park. Phase two is also 8 km long from the boundary of iSimangaliso Wetland Park towards Gate 6, and phase 3 is 9 km from the boundary of the Tembe Elephant Park towards the Pongola River.
The committee was told that phase one has been prioritised and it is the area that the committee has visited. The ISF Shula JV, a BBBEE level 1 contractor was appointed to execute phase one of the project. The project commenced on 7 May 2019 and was expected to be completed on 6 May 2020. However, the project was delayed due to Covid-19 and the deadline for its completion has been extended to 2 November 2020.
Reporting on the progress of the project, Mr Nkosi said the reinforced concrete wall with SoilCem was found to be the best alternative for the project which provides tight and reliable security compared to other options. He told the committee that a distance of 3 km has been completed.
He further reported that a minimum of 35% of the contract is directed at enhancing socio-economic benefits with the appointment of local contractors and 33 local women and youth after receiving training by the department.
Also the department told the committee that the finalisation and the signing of the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between KZN's Department of Transport and the National Department of Public Works and Infrastructure is in progress.
The committee commended the department for the localisation of the project for job creation. However, it expressed its concern over the pending MOA and the implementation of the project without such a binding document. It stressed that the timelines must be in place, and indicated its uncertainty about the achievability of the objective of finishing the project on the extended date of 2 November 2020.
"It is our duty as the committee to oversee the work of the department and we commit ourselves to following up on the issue of the MOA to ensure that it is signed as soon as possible," said Ms Ntobongwana.