SA army heads to Zimbabwe border after new R37m fence damaged

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Public works minister Patricia de Lille said on Monday that the army has been sent to the Beitbridge border fence after reports that it had been damaged.

A picture circulating on Monday morning showed the barbed wire fence had been cut through, with a gaping hole now clearly visible in the fence, which separates SA and Zimbabwe.

In a series of tweets, De Lille acknowledged that the fence had been damaged — and promised that action would be taken.

“With regard to the Beitbridge border fence which DPWI [department of public works and infrastructure] is erecting and criminal elements damaging the fence: I am investigating this matter. The contractor has increased security personnel. The Defence Force has also deployed soldiers to patrol the border,” she said.

She posted pictures with the tweet showing military vehicles and soldiers, including some on motorbikes, along the fence.

“This was a project by DPWI to secure the borders and repair and replace the fence which has been badly damaged. I have requested that the department of defence increase security measures as reinforcement to protect our borders especially during the Covid-19 pandemic.

“For the Beitbridge border fence, we are also considering additional deterring methods such as surveillance, sensors and alarms,” she said.

Less than a month ago, on March 20, De Lille announced that a 40km border fence would be built, as part of measures to keep foreign nationals out of SA and prevent the spread of the coronavirus. The fence would cost, all-in, just over R37m.

De Lille said the 1.8m-high fence would span 20km on each side of the border post separating SA from Zimbabwe.