SA-China projects will be reg­u­lated

CityPress - - Voices - Nomvula Mokonyane voices@city­ Mokonyane is min­is­ter of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion

Re­cently, some of those who con­sis­tently crit­i­cise trans­for­ma­tion and the devel­op­ment of black so­cioe­co­nomic in­ter­ests have ques­tioned the vi­a­bil­ity of the Mz­imvubu Wa­ter Project in the East­ern Cape, and the po­ten­tial in­volve­ment of China’s govern­ment.

Through false al­le­ga­tions and scare tac­tics, these crit­ics have sought to cre­ate the im­pres­sion that, in the im­ple­men­ta­tion of this project, an at­tempt is be­ing made to favour Chi­nese com­pa­nies and labour at the ex­pense of our own trans­for­ma­tion tar­gets.

While it is cor­rect that the Chi­nese and South African gov­ern­ments are en­gaged in ne­go­ti­a­tions on fund­ing mod­els avail­able for this project and oth­ers – through our bi­lat­eral agree­ments as well as the Fo­rum on China-Africa Co­op­er­a­tion – these will be fi­nalised with strict ad­her­ence to the Con­sti­tu­tion and our laws.

We will not com­pro­mise our peo­ple’s in­ter­ests and the ideals that con­sti­tute rad­i­cal eco­nomic trans­for­ma­tion.

Should we find agree­ment with the Chi­nese govern­ment, the prin­ci­ples of broad-based BEE will be en­forced along­side those of a com­pet­i­tive bid­ding process to en­sure that lo­cal­i­sa­tion, fair­ness and trans­parency oc­cur within the am­bit of the law.

The Mz­imvubu project will soon be a re­al­ity, af­ter more than 50 years of pon­der­ing and con­cep­tu­al­i­sa­tion. In his state of the na­tion speech in 2012, Pres­i­dent Ja­cob Zuma an­nounced govern­ment’s in­ten­tion to launch a mas­sive in­fra­struc­ture roll­out pro­gramme aimed at boost­ing the econ­omy, cre­at­ing job op­por­tu­ni­ties and im­prov­ing the so­cial con­di­tions of our peo­ple.

The fo­cus would be on de­vel­op­ing in­fra­struc­ture in ru­ral areas, with the re­lated pos­si­bil­ity of de­vel­op­ing spa­tial eco­nomic zones based on this in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment.

Projects iden­ti­fied in­cluded the Mz­imvubu Wa­ter Project, which is lo­cated in the for­mer Transkei.

His­tor­i­cal records show that the first fea­si­bil­ity stud­ies un­der­taken for build­ing a dam to cap­ture wa­ter from the Mz­imvubu River and its key trib­u­taries – such as the Tsitsa, Tina and Mz­int­lava rivers – were done as early as 1962.

Over the years, var­i­ous apartheid and home­land gov­ern­ments con­sid­ered de­vel­op­ing this crit­i­cal na­tional as­set. How­ever, for po­lit­i­cal rea­sons aimed at lim­it­ing the eco­nomic growth of the home­lands, the project was not im­ple­mented, de­spite all in­di­ca­tors point­ing to its so­cioe­co­nomic vi­a­bil­ity.

The devel­op­ment of the Mz­imvubu project is crit­i­cal for three rea­sons. Firstly, the Con­sti­tu­tion di­rects the state to pro­vide South Africans with ac­cess to clean and safe drink­ing wa­ter. This means we must in­vest in in­fra­struc­ture to serve com­mu­ni­ties in ru­ral areas such as this one, where such ser­vices are yet to be re­alised.

Sec­ondly, the eco­nomic sta­tus of this re­gion re­quires state-driven in­fra­struc­ture in­vest­ment that of­fers the po­ten­tial of cre­at­ing an en­abling en­vi­ron­ment for con­clud­ing agree­ments with the pri­vate sec­tor. These can drive the growth of ex­ist­ing in­dus­tries and the devel­op­ment of new ones.

Lastly, the coun­try’s re­cent droughts have high­lighted the need for us to in­vest in in­fra­struc­ture that will store wa­ter – not only for dis­tri­bu­tion and sup­ply, but for times when our wa­ter se­cu­rity is threat­ened by such dire events.

As the depart­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion, we have in­ten­si­fied our ef­forts to bring to fruition the Mz­imvubu Wa­ter Project.

The project en­tails the devel­op­ment of dams at Nta­belanga and Lalini. The pro­posed Nta­belanga dam will store an es­ti­mated 490 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres of wa­ter, while the slightly smaller Lalini dam will hold 232 mil­lion cu­bic me­tres.

In ad­di­tion to the two dams, a hy­dro­elec­tric power plant – ca­pa­ble of gen­er­at­ing about 47.5 megawatts of power and of pro­duc­ing about

200 mil­lion kilo­watt-hours of en­ergy a year – has been iden­ti­fied as an added de­vel­op­men­tal op­por­tu­nity.

The so­cial com­po­nent of the project will help us pro­vide ac­cess to wa­ter – and guar­an­tee wa­ter se­cu­rity un­til 2050 – to the in­hab­i­tants of the more than 60 vil­lages in the re­gion sur­round­ing the Mz­imvubu catch­ment area.

So, com­mu­ni­ties liv­ing near towns such as Tsolo, Ugie, Ma­clear, Qumbu, Mount Frere, Mount Ayliff, Nta­bankulu, Li­bode and Mthatha will be the ben­e­fi­cia­ries of a re­li­able wa­ter sup­ply scheme that con­sists not only of the dams, but also of ad­di­tional in­fra­struc­ture to treat and retic­u­late avail­able wa­ter.

In to­tal, 726 000 peo­ple will de­rive im­me­di­ate ben­e­fit from the scheme. This fig­ure cov­ers pro­jected pop­u­la­tion growth in the area over the next 30 years.

The con­struc­tion of the dams and re­lated in­fra­struc­ture is es­ti­mated to cost R15.3 bil­lion, so we an­tic­i­pate sig­nif­i­cant eco­nomic spinoffs for the re­gion. A to­tal of 7 070 job op­por­tu­ni­ties, di­rect and in­di­rect, will be re­alised dur­ing the project’s con­struc­tion phase with an an­tic­i­pated wage bill of an es­ti­mated R325 mil­lion yearly in post con­struc­tion job-op­por­tu­ni­ties.

Through the Mz­imvubu project, govern­ment an­tic­i­pates a re­gional eco­nomic boost driven by tourism, agro­pro­cess­ing (in­clud­ing pro­duce pack­ag­ing plants) and the devel­op­ment of new hu­man set­tle­ments.

Pro­vid­ing wa­ter se­cu­rity for do­mes­tic and industrial use in the area is fun­da­men­tal to pro­mot­ing fu­ture in­vest­ment in in­dus­tries that re­quire a re­li­able wa­ter and en­ergy sup­ply.

For govern­ment, the Mz­imvubu project is a pri­or­ity pre­cisely be­cause it pro­vides us with an op­por­tu­nity to in­vest in our peo­ple, their com­mu­ni­ties and the fu­ture of their chil­dren. It gives us an op­por­tu­nity to break the cy­cle of poverty, un­der­de­vel­op­ment and de­pen­dency on state grants for sur­vival.

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