R84.1m: a 3km dirt road for 20 homes

CityPress - - News - SIZWE SAMA YENDE sizwe.yende@city­press.co.za

Mpumalanga’s strug­gling Mkhondo mu­nic­i­pal­ity is go­ing ahead with plans to “up­grade” a 3km gravel road for R84.1 mil­lion – and tar­ring it is not in­cluded in the price.

Mkhondo’s mu­nic­i­pal man­ager, Madubula Mabuza, has ap­pointed a com­pany to do the job for the as­tro­nom­i­cal amount.

An ex­pert in cost­ing in­fras­truc­tural projects es­ti­mates that it should amount to no more than R31 mil­lion.

Ac­cord­ing to two civil en­gi­neers City Press ap­proached, a na­tional road costs about R10 mil­lion a kilo­me­tre, a pro­vin­cial road about R6 mil­lion a kilo­me­tre and a mu­nic­i­pal road like this one, about R3 mil­lion. How­ever, be­cause the job spec­i­fi­ca­tions also in­clude storm wa­ter drainage cul­verts and a bridge, the en­gi­neers told us that it would cost about R31 mil­lion – in­clud­ing tar.

The con­tract doc­u­ment that City Press saw shows that Mabuza awarded the ten­der to Bokosi Projects/Fu­ture JV on De­cem­ber 18 last year to build “ap­prox­i­mately 3km of San­bank Vil­lage Road in­clud­ing [six] cast in situ box cul­verts, [two] pre­cast por­tal cul­verts and [one] sin­gle car­riage­way bridge”.

The Mkhondo mu­nic­i­pal­ity will con­struct its road, which will not be tarred, at R28 mil­lion a kilo­me­tre.

The sole owner of Bokosi Projects is Stephen Mapondo Sit­sha, who is also a mu­si­cian go­ing by the stage name Steve Mapondo. As a mu­si­cian, he started Steve Group in 2013, which brings to­gether var­i­ous mu­si­cians from dif­fer­ent gen­res.

Ac­cord­ing to Bokosi’s web­site, the com­pany is a “small, fully rep­re­sen­ta­tive Black Eco­nomic Em­pow­er­ment, civil en­gi­neer­ing con­sul­tancy”.

City Press was un­able to ver­ify de­tails of Sit­sha’s joint ven­ture part­ner, Fu­ture – about 500 com­pa­nies are reg­is­tered on the Com­pa­nies and In­tel­lec­tual Prop­erty Com­mis­sion un­der that name.

Sit­sha did not an­swer his phone on Fri­day and Satur­day, and failed to re­spond to text mes­sages and an email. His spokesper­son, Thabiso Mosema, said he only dealt with Sit­sha’s mu­sic projects and not his other busi­nesses. “I can only help you to in­ter­view Steve as an artist,” he said.

Mkhondo is an im­pov­er­ished mu­nic­i­pal­ity, which cur­rently owes Eskom R19 mil­lion.

It has also been be­set by ad­min­is­tra­tive prob­lems, re­sult­ing in ad­verse au­dit find­ings by the Au­di­torGen­eral ev­ery fi­nan­cial year.

Mandla Dube, a cost es­ti­ma­tor at Com­fort Busi­ness En­ter­prise, which costs in­fra­struc­ture projects, said: “Are they build­ing this road in the ocean, or is there a huge moun­tain they have to de­stroy [lo­cated] in the way of the road?”

City Press drove the ex­ist­ing dirt road and came across a small, sea­sonal stream that crosses it and that will need to be chan­nelled through a cul­vert un­der the road.

How­ever, Mabuza de­clined to ex­plain how the mu­nic­i­pal­ity ar­rived at a de­ci­sion to con­struct eight cul­verts and a bridge on the road.

Dube said: “This is too much. This road should cost R9 mil­lion at most – and an ad­di­tional R12 mil­lion for the six box cul­verts, R4 mil­lion for the two por­tal cul­verts and R6 mil­lion for the sin­gle car­riage­way bridge men­tioned there.

“How wide are those rivers they are talk­ing about? A 300m-long cul­vert costs about R800 000.”

The small road that the mu­nic­i­pal­ity wants to up­grade con­nects from the pro­vin­cial road R537 and winds through Sand­bank – a forestry farm out­side Piet Retief that is home to 20 farm­worker house­holds – and re­joins the R537 on an­other side.

This project is not part of the mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s In­te­grated Devel­op­ment Plan and a full coun­cil sit­ting has not ap­proved it, said DA coun­cil­lor Irene Ros­souw.

Her Pan African­ist Congress coun­ter­part, Ja­cob Phakathi, also ex­pressed shock at the move to build the road.

Mabuza told City Press that ques­tions about this ten­der smacked of a po­lit­i­cal agenda: “I know that there are peo­ple with po­lit­i­cal mo­tives who are spread­ing lies, be­cause they want ten­ders in the mu­nic­i­pal­ity.”

In a writ­ten re­sponse, Mabuza said the project was “not over­charged, con­sid­er­ing the ex­tra seven bridges cov­ered in the scope”.

How­ever, there is only one bridge in the doc­u­ment, and he de­clined to an­swer fol­low-up ques­tions.

Mabuza said the ru­ral house­holds at Sand­bank de­served ac­cess to ser­vice de­liv­ery and that is why coun­cil de­cided to build the road.

But he was quick to add that a fi­nal de­ci­sion to build the road had not been taken, de­spite the fact that the ten­der had al­ready been awarded.

“The project has not yet started and the fi­nal de­ci­sion to build the road has not been reached. How­ever, it is planned and ap­proved by coun­cil,” he said.

Mabuza de­clined to pro­vide a coun­cil res­o­lu­tion and bid com­mit­tee min­utes to prove that the ten­der was above board, claim­ing that the in­for­ma­tion was “clas­si­fied” and would only be re­leased if a case was opened with the po­lice.

PHOTO: SIZWE SAMA YENDE

PROJECT LOOT This is the 3km road that Mkhondo mu­nic­i­pal man­ager Madubula Mabuza in­tends up­grad­ing for R84.1 mil­lion. The road runs through Sand­bank Farm, out­side Piet Retief

PHOTO: SIZWE SAMA YENDE

RIP-OFF Mkhondo mu­nic­i­pal­ity’s con­tract show­ing the award­ing of the as­tro­nom­i­cal ten­der and stip­u­lat­ing the con­struc­tion up­grade de­tails

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