Beitbridge border fence saga – companies claim they acted on instruction of public works

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South African Beitbridge Border at Musina, Limpopo. Photo: Dudu Zitha
South African Beitbridge Border at Musina, Limpopo. Photo: Dudu Zitha

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The suppliers of the controversial multi-million rand fence at the Beitbridge border fence project had claimed that Public Works and Infrastructure Minister Patricia de Lille and her officials pressured them to erect the substandard fence and approved the project within a few days.

The startling claims are contained in the affidavits filed before the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) tribunal, in the appeal process yet to be heard.

The appeal followed the tribunal’s ruling that ordered the companies to pay back the profits they had made from the controversial project.

In the documents, seen by City Press, one of the implicated companies, Caledon River Properties (also known as Magwa Construction) alleged that they were invited to a meeting by the chief construction project manager, Seni Lukhele. The two companies argued that the tribunal “erred fundamentally”.

The court documents read: 

Mr Lukhele told the defendants (Magwa Construction and Profteam CC) that the project at the ministerial direction of Patricia de Lille was dated March 16 2020 and that the contractor be appointed and commence work by March 20 2020. The type, size and specifications of the fence were agreed upon at the site meeting between representatives of all the stakeholders.

The documents added that two companies had completed bid documentation and that the bids were accepted by the department, before they were appointed.

According to the court documents, Magwa Construction provided “master drawings for the fence, gates and river ways, which contained the specifications for the build, and detailed requirements in relation to workmanship and materials”. These were accepted by the department.

READ: Suspended public works DG points finger at De Lille for inflated R40 million Beitbridge border fence deal

The company alleged in court documents that they had provided the department with daily updates and progress reports, which the department had not disapproved.

“The second plaintiff (department of public works) was aware of the daily vandalism of the fence and resultant breaches. It was specifically recorded that the SA National Defence Force (SANDF) would look after the security of the fence once it was handed over to the second respondent,” the documents read.

According to the court submission, the public works officials and the SANDF representatives signed the certificate of completion on April 28 2020.

READ: De Lille orders DG to stay home and get paid

In the supporting application by Caledon River Properties, the company alleged that the tribunal had erred in not finding that they were the innocent party that had acted on the instruction of the public works officials and as per the department’s agreed requirements within the short notice.

The issue of the fence had been at the centre of controversy after it emerged that the fence was substandard and easily breachable, and had an inflated price.

READ: De Lille embroiled in building dispute

The SIU, which is listed as the first plaintiff, successfully brought an application against the two companies, seeking to recoup the public funds used in the construction of the fence, ordering that all profits be refunded to the department.

In another court matter, related to the controversial border fence saga, suspended director-general of the department Sam Vukela told the court in an affidavit, in which President Cyril Ramaphosa is cited as a second respondent, that De Lille was the one who had violated several procurement processes, participated in the controversial fence tender and also demanded that certain service providers be appointed without following proper procurement processes.


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Abram Mashego 

Journalist

+27 11 713 9001
abram.mashego@citypress.co.za
www.citypress.co.za
69 Kingsway Rd, Auckland Park

The fence has since been demolished.

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