KZN commits to border wall

2017-03-20 12:29
KZN Finance MEC Belinda Scott commits to border wall.

KZN Finance MEC Belinda Scott commits to border wall. (File)

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Pietermaritzburg - It's not a “Trump Wall”, but large concrete barriers — up to two metres high each — will be erected along parts of the Mozambique and Swaziland borders near Jozini, KwaZulu-Natal, to try and stamp out cross-border crime.

“We are tired of the cross-border crime,” said KwaZulu-Natal Finance MEC Belinda Scott at an event in Durban on Friday. She said people, including tourists, were getting killed and attacked from vehicle hijackings and stock thefts. In addition, wildlife was being poached.

She said protecting citizens on the border was not a function of the provincial government, but the province intended to “take the lead” in a R120 million project to erect New Jersey Barriers along certain areas of the border.

New Jersey Barriers are the low, concrete, short wall structures often used along our highways to direct traffic and protect driving lanes.

Scott said the intention was not to stop people from crossing the border, but the barriers will aim to stop illegal vehicular travel between the countries.

She said an 80 km stretch of the border had been identified where most of the illegal crossings are made, of which a 25 km stretch was the most commonly used by the criminals.

She said they hoped to recoup the money for the project from the Department of Home Affairs, which would also have to maintain the barriers, while the plan was for the SANDF to patrol it.

Andrew McGill, economist from the Graham Muller & Associates consultancy, said that from recent projects they had carried out along the border, it was evident “there is real anger out there in communities” about cross-border crime.

KZN Treasury fiscal resource management senior manager Nelisiwe Shezi said national government had once committed to deal with cross-border crime through the establishment of a border management authority, but nothing had happened in this respect over 10 years.

Shezi said the R48 million committed to improve border safety in this year’s provincial budget was not nearly enough to tackle the issue. “However, we are saying, let us make a start on this.”

• At the event, McGill said Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife appeared to be facing “substantial” issues with a declining budget and it being unable to maintain its services and infrastructure.

Scott said Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife’s budget was falling because Ezemvelo had “too many greenies and too few economists” and the organisation was almost entirely reliant on government financial support.

“Everything is about biodiversity and nothing about eco-tourism” and some of its projects “are not very good” in terms of making the organisation more “self-sustaining”, she said.

She said Ezemvelo was competing for funding against other departments providing vital social delivery services in a very constrained fiscal environment.

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