SA-China projects will be regulated
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.