After assessing the merits of a complaint registered at the public protector’s office against Patricia De Lille and the department of public works and infrastructure for the erection of a R37 million border fence that has since been vandalised and stolen, investigators have decided to launch an official investigation into the matter.
Public protector spokesperson Oupa Segalwe confirmed this in a recent interview on 702’s Early Breakfast show.
The complaint was lodged in April by Zungula, acting in his capacity as a member of parliament.
“We received this complaint from a political party represented in parliament, the African Transformation Movement; that was on April 21st,” said Segalwe.
“That matter is being looked at, the team was able to asses it for jurisdiction and merit over the last few days and the decision was that ‘yes, it is a matter that the public protector can definitely look into.’ So, it has been allocated to an investigation branch and investigation will commence immediately.”
The DA criticised De Lille’s department, saying the “washing line” it had erected had exposed its “incompetence”.
“Once referred to as the ‘Snake of Fire’ because of the 2,800 volts that coursed through those unfortunate enough to come into contact with it, the original border fence was substantial, solid and close to impenetrable.
“But due to a lack of maintenance and the lacklustre monitoring of the border by the SANDF over the years, it had become as porous as a sieve. This has occurred, despite there being a three-metre-high double fence on either side of the electric fence that marked the border between the two countries.
“The advent of Covid-19 was supposed to address and change all that. The announcement by the DPWI and Minister Patricia de Lille that repairs totalling R37 million would be effected to 40 kilometres of the border fence, should have signalled a new era in tackling our almost non-existent border. It would have ensured that kilometres of fencing stolen for animal kraals around the Beitbridge border area would have been replaced and restored,” said the party.
When asked whether the investigation would focus on the department as a whole or De Lille in her capacity as minister, Segalwe confirmed the investigation would cover both as De Lille’s role in the matter raised some questions.
The team would now have to contact all parties involved, gather statements and evidence but Segalwe said “work has already commenced on that front”.
Segalwe said that processes regarding reports that had been challenged and the parliamentary inquest into Busisiwe Mkhwebane’s fitness to hold office had been put on the back burner during the lockdown period.
“I could say they are on ice because just before the state of disaster was declared the questions around the lawfulness and constitutionality of the rules on which parliament is relying for purposes of holding the public protector to account in that sense [were] held back purely because of this lockdown.”
The office does, however, expect the matter to continue as soon as there is a declaration allowing all court processes to continue as normal.
Listen to the interview below: