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Mozambique Border Fence

An electric fence some 150km in length was being erected in 2012 between the Kruger Park and Mozambique to deter poachers. In January 2012 the South African government announced that talks are under way concerning the possibility of re-erecting a 150-kilometer stretch of fence along the Mozambique-South Africa border in the Kruger National Park. South African National Parks was in discussion with the departments of the environment and public works on the logistics of putting back the fence. The review of fencing is in response to the continuing problem of rhino poaching.

Mozambique is one of the poorest countries in the world, and the relative wealth of South Africa is as big a draw to illegal immigrants as the United States is in Central America. There is a barbed-wire fence along the border; it used to be electrified, with the voltage set to kill. It's switched off now, but the military still patrols the fence. Some immigrants who do slip through are hunted down by Kruger lion prides. Lions who develop a taste for human flesh then must be killed by Kruger rangers for fear that they will put tourists on their menu.

South Africa and Mozambique do not see the need to display their power along the southern Mozambique/ South Africa border. The four-foot wire fence separating Mozambique and South Africa along the provincial border of KwaZulu-Natal is cut at regular intervals. This fence looks very meager in comparison with the NOREX electrical fence that was constructed in 1984 along South Africa’s eastern border with Mozambique and Swaziland, and South Africa’s northern border with Zimbabwe. In 1975 the apartheid regime in South Africa put up a lethal electric fence along the border with Mozambique. However, the voltage was reduced after the unbanning of the African National Congress in 1990, and since the end of apartheid much of the fence has either been removed or knocked down by elephants.

The Portuguese put up stone cairns (many of them still standing today) to mark the border. In the 1940s the South African authorities started to construct a border fence. People moved freely across the border before 1975 to visit relatives and friends, and it was easy to move from one side of the border to the other. Although there was a fence, the authorities allowed local people, whom they knew, relative free movement across the border. Apart from occasional patrols by the police, no real policing occurred at the border. This made crossings of the border extremely easy for the borderlanders.

The election of P.W. Botha as Prime Minister of South Africa in 1978 marked a significant break in South Africa’s foreign policy in southern Africa. South Africa abandoned the principles of non-intervention in its dealings with Angola and Mozambique. In Mozambique South Africa supported a rebellion against the regime. Due to South African support and deteriorating economic conditions in Mozambique, RENAMO became a real threat to the FRELIMO government. The ANC used Mozambique as a corridor for infiltrating South Africa.

Cross-border movement was restricted by both the South African and Mozambique governments and landmines were laid by Mozambique at the border. There were efforts by South Africa to electrify the boundary fence. This, for some reason, did not work. Instead, the army planted sisal all along the boundary fence to prevent people from crossing. This is a technique used by local people throughout Maputaland. Sisal planted in close proximity creates an impenetrable wall. However, because elephants, who roamed freely in the area, kept breaking through the sisal wall, the plan never succeeded. The fence remained a mere three-strand, three-foot high wire construction, although the increase in soldiers along the border made it difficult for local people to cross. In this period crossings from South Africa to Mozambique came to all but a complete standstill. Most South Africans who crossed the border, were not residents of the borderland, but were rather members of Umkhonto we Sizwe, the armed wing of the ANC.

In 1994 elections were held in Mozambique and South Africa that dramatically changed relations of power within and between these states. In South Africa the ANC had won sixty-three per cent of the votes, and Mozambique and South Africa were no longer opponents. According to the South African Ministry of Environmental Affairs and Tourism, the establishment of Transfrontier Conservation Areas or Peace Parks is part of a regional collaboration aimed at the eradication of political fences in the interest of responsible environmental management and conservation with high potential for tourism growth and development. The Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area will link the Tembe Elephant Park and the Ndumo Game Reserve in South Africa with the Maputo Elephant Reserve in Mozambique and with Swaziland’s Hlane National Park and Mlawula and Ndzinda Game Reserves. It is believed that the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area will contribute to regional socio-economic development by creating tourism-related jobs for local people in the South Africa/ Mozambique/ Swaziland borderland region.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2020 18:57:04 ZULU