South Africa’s R37 million fence separating its border with Zimbabwe has sparked debate in the bordering country, with critics probing the project as a “knee-jerk reaction” to seal off the border because of the COVID-19 crisis.
The fence has already been penetrated on several points by illegal immigrants even before the 40km long border has been closed.
Citizens of both countries who cross the border illegally have labelled the fence “a joke” with one Busani Sibanda saying:
This is not a fence. This thing doesn’t even take me five minutes to cut through. We make big holes so we can get suitcases with cigarettes through and small ones so we can get people and groceries through.
The South African government has deployed soldiers to patrol the fence, but they admit they are fighting a losing battle trying to stem the flow of people across the border.
A soldier who spoke to TimesLive on condition of anonymity said:
Not everyone coming across the river is a criminal. Most are starving. We find mothers who, when we arrest them, beg us not to send them home. They ask to be taken somewhere where they can eat.
Records indicate that South Africa’s department of public works has paid R21 million to Magwa Construction for the 40km fence.
The awarding of the contract to the company is set to be investigated by auditor-general Kimi Makwetu for alleged procurement violations.