Cross-border crime – SIU probe into stalled R85.7-million Mozambique border wall nears completion

Jersey barriers were seen as a solution to prevent cross-border crime across South Africa’s porous border with Mozambique, but the 8km project that got under way more than four years ago has been on hold pending completion of a Special Investigative Unit investigation into the R85.7 million tender.

Government officials and business people could find themselves in hot water after the Special Investigative Unit (SIU) has completed the probe into the R85.7-million tender to install concrete Jersey barriers – also known as border walls – along the porous fence that separates South Africa and Mozambique in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal.

For years now the border communities of Umkhanyakude District, including Manguzi, Jozini, Mbazwana, Hluhluwe and others, have been under siege from armed cross-border syndicates who attack them in their homes especially at night, rob, abduct them, take them in their own vehicles and dump them there while syndicate members smuggle their (the victims’) vehicles through the porous fence into the Mozambique wilderness.

The installation of concrete Jersey barriers along the porous fence that separates South Africa and Mozambique in the far north of KwaZulu-Natal was hailed as the solution that would bring an end to vehicle smuggling in the area and the brazen activities of cross-border crime syndicates, whose members live on either side of the border fence.

In 2018 an R85, 7 million tender for the construction of an 8km border wall was awarded to ISF Construction and Shula Construction by the KZN Department of Transport.

Several cars were found stuck and abandoned on or close to the small section where the jersey barrier had been installed after members of the syndicates were not able to take the cars to the other side to Mozambique.

But the project came to an abrupt halt after only 166 metres of jersey barriers had been installed and R48-million had been paid to contractors. Some of the jersey barriers have been lying in the villages near the Mozambican border for more than three years.

KZN Transport welcomes SIU investigation on the new jersey barrier wall project on the Mozambique border


The SIU said it began its probe after it “received allegations from an unnamed whistle-blower, claiming that the transport department has executed the project of constructing a concrete barrier, despite the legal mandate of such project resting with the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure”.

Among other things, the SIU probed the procurement process and delivery of  “value for money”. The unit was also probing allegations of the contravention of KZN Department of Transport procurement processes as well as noncompliance with the Public Finance Management Act.

Kaizer Kganyago, spokesperson for the SIU, said his unit concluded its probe late last year and is now in the process of writing recommendations to President Cyril Ramaphosa.

“Unfortunately, we cannot give out all the details right now because it will go against the process. We are compiling a report to the president. We have made referrals to the KZN Department of Transport for disciplinary action against certain officials that were involved because a lot of things went wrong. We are considering options about setting aside that contract,” he said, adding that government officials, and business people could face criminal cases and or be forced to pay back the money that the KZN Department of Transport has already paid.

“It was not the responsibility of the KZN Department of Transport to issue that project, that was the responsibility of the Department of Public Works and the Border Management. We don’t understand how [the tender] became an issue of the KZN Department of Transport. The probe has found a lot of irregularities in the awarding of that tender,” Kganyago said.

Xolani Zikhali, chairperson of the Umkhanyakude Community Policing Forum said the halting of the installation of jersey barriers has stalled efforts to curb cross-border syndicate activities, especially those that are smuggling vehicles to Mozambique.

“We understand that the project was stopped because of corruption investigations. We know that if they can put these jersey barriers in the hotspots, these syndicates will not be able to smuggle vehicles and many people would be safe from hijackings and abductions,” he said.

Other community members were threatening to protest and close roads in the area until they force the government to resume the jersey barrier project.

Kwanele Ncalane, spokesman for the KZN Department of Transport and Community Safety and Liaison, told eNCA on Tuesday this week that his department was working with the national government to conclude the probe so that the project to install jersey barriers in smuggling hotspots resumes. 

“This matter is a subject of discussion between us [KZN Dept of Transport] and the Department of Public Works nationally because when we were doing this project it was an unfunded project on our side therefore [now] the Department of Public Works is going to be seized with this matter,” he said.

Guy Lamb, a criminologist at Stellenbosch University, agreed that installing the jersey barriers could be one of the solutions to curb the smuggling of vehicles. DM

Journalists’  bylines have been withheld for security reasons.

Author: editor

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