Issued by Benedicta van Minnen MP – DA Member of the Standing Committee on Public Accounts
During a meeting of Parliament’s Standing Committee on Public Accounts (SCOPA) today, the Minister of Defense and Military Veterans, Nosiviwe Mapisa-Nqakula, indicated that she did not see any problems with illegal crossings at South Africa’s borders.
This was in response to a question about soldiers allegedly accompanying illegal border crossers to do their shopping. The Minister indicated that it was humane to allow poor Zimbabweans to illegally cross the border to access shopping and medical care at South African clinics. She acknowledged that many Zimbabweans were suffering from the effects of poverty and lack of medical care and admitted to knowing that the army was providing transport to assist people in these actions.
SCOPA recently visited the Beitbridge Border fence commissioned by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure (DPWI) stemming from an illegal directive from Minister Patricia De Lille.
Beitbridge is the busiest border post in Southern Africa and sees thousands of people and hundreds of trucks cross daily in a legal and orderly manner. During this lockdown period that regulation is vitally important to the proper management and containment of Covid-19, a disease which has killed thousands of South Africans and people across the region.
However, the border fence has not been built according to the specifications, and it has seen multiple illegal crossings, breaks and defects which allows for many illegal border crossings.
Minister Mapisa-Nqakula stated that these persons were not illegal immigrants as they were merely crossing back and forth across the border to access services and shopping.
The Minister quite rightfully identifies that poverty is a huge problem in Zimbabwe and that it has the effect of driving people to illegally cross the border. However, in admitting her knowledge of the multiple illegal border crossings and her apparent justification of the army’s role, the Minister has demonstrated utter contempt for the rule of law in South Africa.
It also directly contradicts the regulations and requirements of the National State of Disaster declared by the President and the regulations of the National Command Council. The Minister does not seem to appreciate that it is the role of the Beitbridge Border crossing to facilitate legal entry and exit into the Republic and that there is no justification for illegal crossings.
How can a Cabinet Minister, one directly responsible for national security, not only admit knowledge of illegal actions to a Committee of Parliament, but then seek to justify this behaviour instead of using her Department to enforce legal border crossings?
So, not only is the fence that was commissioned not fit for purpose, but the Ministry of Defence has no problem justifying the illegal crossing of the border it is designed to stop, and the financial implications of facilitating illegal border crossings to the South African taxpayer.
In admitting knowledge of illegal action and in justifying same, Minister Mapisa-Nqakula has added to her long list of indiscretions. It is clear that the President must fire her immediately.