Committee Report on Jersey Barrier Oversight visit

Public Works and Infrastructure

21 October 2020
Chairperson: Ms N Ntobongwana (ANC)
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Meeting Summary

Audio: Committee Report on Jersey Barrier Oversight visit 

Tabled Committee Reports

The Committee met on a virtual platform to consider the Report on its oversight visit to the Jersey Barrier Wall in KwaZulu-Natal. The main areas of contention raised by Members included the amendment of recommendations 5.2 and 5.3 in the Report, ensuring accountability for the funding of the project, and the oversight measures that needed to be implemented. They also called for an investigation into issues such as the source of the funding for the project, and the lack of a memorandum of understanding (MOA) or an environmental impact assessment (EIA).

Members highlighted the need for extensive research regarding the effects of this project on the environment, which was an area which included endangered species. They also expressed dissatisfaction regarding the inconsistencies found between what had been presented to them in the pre-visit meetings, and what was found in the report. They stressed the need for close collaboration between departments, in order to obtain a consistent approach to border lines.

A 14-day period was granted to allow for the amendments to be incorporated into the Report.

Meeting report

Report of the Portfolio Committee on Public Works and Infrastructure on an Oversight visit to the Jersey Barrier Wall (Kosi Bay Rsa/Mozambique Borderline, Kwazulu-Natal)
The Committee Secretary presented the Report on the Committee’s oversight visit to the Jersey Barrier Wall in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). She went through it page by page, highlighting the reason for their visit to the border.

The overarching issues which had emerged included the fact that no environmental impact assessment (EIA) approval had been granted on the project. Further, what had been seen at the site was contrary to what had been presented. If there was insufficient funding for the border wall to be built in 2023, this might render the entire project a failure.  Unfortunately, to date there was no memorandum of agreement (MOA) in place. However, it was established that the project costs amounted to about R85 million, although the KZN Department of Transport had requested R50 million.  According to the findings, the construction was made up of three phases.


Mr W Thring (ACDP) made a few comments regarding grammatical errors in Report, before moving on to his recommendations. He was concerned as there had been flouting of Public Service and Administration (PSA) mandates. He understood that there had been challenges with site verifications and agreements, and he was therefore afraid that the Portfolio Committee would be complicit from a legal standpoint.  He suggested an investigation should be conducted by the Auditor-General (AG), and that a legal opinion be sought on the matter.

He was also curious as to how 12 vehicles had evidently been able to get through the border. He asked whether this information was purely inferred from tyre marks. He clarified that he did not believe that the allegation of criminal behaviour had been fabricated, but his main concern was the procedure followed in coming to that conclusion. Lastly, he commented that moving the wall behind the Jersey Barrier Wall in order to prevent crimes may constrict the movement of animals in that area.

Ms S Graham (DA) referred to page five of the Report, and said the Committee needed to establish on whose behalf the Border Management Agency was acting.

Regarding the phases of construction, she made a correction to the stated coordinates, saying that the sentence beginning “moved west to gate 6” may be inaccurate, as she believed that this move occurred in an easterly direction.

Concerning the recommendations, she pointed out that the letter of the Director-General of 5 October had reported that they had found R50 million. Furthermore, she was concerned that the MOA should have been concluded. The challenge was that the Committee had moved to a new financial year, so it was important to establish where that R50 million had come from. Had it been set aside, or had it been absorbed into the new financial year? Was that R50 million still available? These questions all pointed to a need to find the source of the money before the Committee could even acquire an MOA.

Ms M Hicklin (DA) said the Report had raised more concerns than answers. There was no EIA, no MOU in sight, and that there was flouting of the law. She echoed a previous comment made by Ms Graham regarding where the R50 million had come from. The disappearance of cars over the Mozambican border had happened for years, but in preventing this, the Committee could not act alone. Another concern was the deaths of two Mozambican soldiers. The Committee did not know whether the families of those soldiers had been compensated. Lastly, she contended that a system of oversight needed to be implemented.

Content advisor’s feedback

Mr Shuaib Denyssen, Content Advisor, presented his feedback to the Committee. Referring to the recommendations in 5.1 and 5.2, he said the EIA issue was important, as the first excavation at the construction site could not take place unless the EIA was in place. Moreover, there were extremely sensitive creatures that needed to be protected during the construction process. The reality of the matter was that on 19 March, the Public Works Department had received an assessment report on Mozambique and Swaziland border lines, so recommendation 5.1 needed to read differently.

He suggested a new version of the recommendation, which was “…avail the KZN Department of Transport with the basic assessment report (TPMD2264/2675R001F), dated 19 March 2018, for the Department of Public Works to facilitate operation….”

He said that this amendment would inevitably affect recommendation 5.2. However, should the recommendation be amended in this way, the 5.2 recommendation could be removed.
He referred to a letter from the Director-General concerning the MOA and the R50 million, and explained that if the mandate was a national one, then no provincial department may spend the money unless it was given permission.

Further, it was important to supply the hand-over report that included details of all the endangered species and the effects of the construction on site once the work had been done, in order to factor in any other additional costs that may arise. His recommendation was therefore that they should start an investigation process.

With regard to the recommendation in 5.3, there was a further need to look at the Director General’s letter, and consider who the chief executive was. It was important to ask them to approach the Committee in order to account for where the money had come from.

Mr Denyssen also did not want recommendation 5.3 to read the way that it had read previously. He refers specifically to the extract: “instructs senior management team.” He suggested that it should be changed, as it implied that the Committee was comfortable with the way in which the money had been obtained. An investigation should take place beforehand to establish where the money came from.


Ms S van Schalkwyk (ANC) agreed that they should find a proper way to word the recommendations. It was also important to ensure that the MOA was not fast tracked, as this would result in an embarrassment on the part of the Committee. In addition, they needed to ensure that there was a proper investigation into the money that had been spent on the project.

With regard to the Report itself, the Committee had heard proper research had been done on the border gates, but it was later found that this had been ignored. They therefore needed to conduct proper research that could guide them on how to ensure uniformity in the construction of border lines across the country.

She added that the Committee needed to be firm. One of the issues that had arisen was that there were inconsistencies in what was being done between departments. They needed to synergise the efforts of departments, in order to strengthen them.

Mr T Mashele (ANC) began by acknowledging the good work done in compiling the report, given the time constraints in which it was to be completed. He also acknowledges that although challenges had arisen, these should not deter them from doing a good job. The Committee needed to ensure proper oversight.

Regarding recommendation 5.3: that spoke on the fast tracking of signing, he commented that they should add that this should be in line with the Public Finance Management Act (PFMA). He also recommended that the Committee should get a report on why the KZN provincial department had continued with the project without an EIA.

Ms Inez Stephney, Committee Researcher, said that it had been very difficult to keep track of what had been said on site compared to what was said on the pre-visit. Referring to the R50 million, she added that there had been hesitance in handing that money over.

She agreed that Mr Thring’s recommendation was the proper way to go about sourcing the money, and said reference to the fast-tracking of the signing of the MOA should be rewritten.

The Committee Secretary said she had edited the recommendations, as suggested by the Members.  She added that the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) had said on site that it had an EIA recommendation. Thus, the reason why the project had continued was because the DPWI had received an EIA recommendation.

She also sought clarification with regard to the investigation that had earlier been suggested, in order to factor in the proper recommendation.

Ms Hicklin suggested that there should be an outsider to conduct the investigation in order to ensure an honest and credible audit. The further this audit finding was from the Committee and was written by non-Member, the more credible it would be.

Mr Thring agreed with Ms Hicklin, but also suggested an internal investigation coupled with that of an external investigating body.  

The Committee Secretary asked for further clarification of the recommendations proposed by the Members, as there appeared to be two opposing views. One was that there must be an external investigation. The second was that there must be an internal and external investigation

Mr Denyssen responded that he did not think that the Committee had all the information it needed before an investigation could take place. Perhaps what was needed was a recommendation that asked the Department about the irregularities, including the sourcing of the R50 million.

He added that they did not want an internal investigation that would embarrass the Committee.

The Committee Secretary made further amendments to the Report, and cautioned that the Committee needed to be safe in drafting its recommendations. She said that the Report could be obtained before the end of this term.  

Mr Thring asked what the difference was between a Report and an internal investigation. He added that in his opinion, there was sufficient cause for concern to seek an external investigator. Regarding the Committee Secretary’s comment, he felt that waiting until the end of the term was too long.

Mr Mashele suggested a comprehensive Report that would give the Committee a way forward.

Ms Hicklin said she wanted the Committee to consider the timeframe for the report. They needed to limit the time given for the documents that may not have originally been there, to be found, because the assumption might be that the Committee was concealing information by “sweeping things under the carpet.” There must be a paper trail that could account for what had taken place. She also agreed with Mr Thring that waiting till the end of the fourth term for a report was too long. It gave too much latitude.

The Committee Secretary clarified that normally seven to 14 days was allowed, so the deadline would be 14 November. She also suggested that timelines be assigned to the recommendations, particularly recommendations 5.1 and 5.2.

The Chairperson suggested that 14 days should be allowed, as per the Committee Secretary’s clarification.

Discussion on this Report was concluded, as Members indicated they were satisfied with the suggestions put forward.

Committee minutes dated 7 October 2020

The Committee Secretary went through the minutes of the October 7 meeting page by page, and a brief discussion followed. Most of the inputs were focused on the Beitbridge oversight visit.

The minutes were adopted.

Committee minutes dated 20 October 2020

The Committee Secretary went through the minutes of the meeting of October 20.

Ms Graham made a few clarifications, and referred to the Government Gazette mentioned in the minutes. She cautioned the Committee against driving the point involving the Presidential Infrastructure Coordinating Council (PICC), saying that it had not moved to the DPWI.  

She pointed out that the “Director of Infrastructure” was not the Director, but the Head of Infrastructure. This was subsequently confirmed by the Committee Secretary.

She also commented that she had not had a question answered in two months, and as per the rules, questions had to be answered within three weeks. She would therefore add that as a recommendation.

Mr Denyssen suggested a correction in the minutes, as there was a conflation regarding Dr Ramokgopa’s function.  

Ms Stephney made some comments on the grammar of the minutes.

The Committee Secretary made the concluding remarks, and thanked Committee Members for their involvement. It was agreed that their next meeting would take place on Tuesday next week, and would deal with the Expropriation Bill.

The meeting was adjourned.


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