A R5 billion presidential bulk water supply project aimed at thwarting the chronic water shortage in Limpopo is stalling because the company delivering the project cannot afford to buy diesel.
The Giyani Water Emergency Intervention was commissioned by then president Jacob Zuma after the region was declared a disaster area in 2009. This came after two main sources of water in the area, the Middle Letaba and Nsami dams dried up, forcing residents and livestock to compete for dirty and contaminated water in rivers, wells and fountains.
At the time, the provincial department of health announced that more than five people had died due to cholera and other water-borne diseases. The only waste water treatment plant ended up spilling waste into the Giyani river.
In light of the situation, Zuma ordered then water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane to attend to the water situation in Giyani by appointing a reputable company on a turnkey basis to quickly address to the problem.
Mokonyane, who has since been reshuffled to head the communication portfolio, appointed a Johannesburg consulting company, LTE Consulting, to deliver the project. LTE, in turn, appointed subcontractor Khato Civils.
This week, the Midrand engineering and construction company downed tools because it cannot move its plant to site due to a lack of money for fuel.
“We are currently at 98% completion stage and in no time residents from the 55 villages, including the town and its suburbs, will have clean, running piped water for their everyday use,” said Khato Civils chief executive Mnyani Mongezi yesterday. “But that may become just a mirage because Lepelle Northern Water is unable to pay us. We sent them an invoice of R89 000 in March. But the agency has failed to pay us for five months now.”
He said Khato was currently connecting pipes to supply water from a reservoir to the end user.
“Our primary objective is to deliver a five-star project to the community of Giyani because we have their interest at heart.
“If we get payment, the project can be complete before the end of this year,” he said.
Spokesperson for Lepelle Northern Water, Simon Mpamonyane confirmed the agency received the invoice from Khato Civils. “We have since forwarded the invoice to the department and are waiting for their action.”
Days before his budget vote in May, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti visited the area and undertook to provide funds to complete phase 1 and phase 2 of the project.
“Phase 2 would deal with reticulation, which would see the thirsty community of Giyani drawing water from a tap right at the doorstep of their houses,” Nkwinti said during his visit.
In his 2018/19 budget vote, Nkwinti said his department was allocated R15.5 billion, of which R7.5 billion was set aside for contractual commitments not adequately budgeted for, but currently rendering services.
He added the department had further set aside R6.3 billion for infrastructure projects and R1.1 billion for operational goods and services.
Pressed for comment, departmental spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the minister had not defaulted on his promise to make funds available for the completion of the Giyani project.
“It is a parliamentary process for reprioritisation of budget because it was parliament that signed the budget vote. “As for the invoice of Khato Civils, we will now validate the work done on site to see if it equals the value of the invoice. Khato will receive its payment in no time, pending the outcome of the verification process.”
Meanwhile the public protector is investigating allegations that R185 million meant to address the protracted water situation in Nonkoma, Kwazulu-Natal, could not be traced.