Show me one who can do the job!
Costly dilly-dallying by Eskom and OR Tambo district municipality
DESPITE BEING STARTED more than five years ago, the Lwandile Bulk Water Supply Scheme has still not yielded a single drop of water for the 10 000-strong Lwandile community in Ngqeleni on the Wild Coast (see Finweek, 26 January 2006).
In August 2002 the OR Tambo District Municipality spent R15m to install 110 communal taps, build a raw water collection and purification reservoir and lay pipes to distribute water from two underground boreholes in the Mdumbi River. Port Shepstone-based Amangcoya Construction won the tender, completed the job and left the area in July 2005 – a year after the project was supposed to have been completed. The Lwandile project needed electricity to pump water from the boreholes.
But the case of abandoned infrastructural projects is not unique to Lwandile. Some of the villages Finweek visited between Coffee Bay and Port St Johns are silently suffering a similar fate. The Lwandile project was designed as a regional water supply scheme that was meant to provide water to the neighbouring
villa- ges as well. Yet year after year the Department of Water and Forestry (Dwaf) reports impressive figures about water provision. In a November 2006 document entitled Water provision is key to the healthy development of children, the department claims it has supplied safe drinking water to some 16m people since 1994. “This has had a huge impact on the quality of life of rural women and children,” Dwaf says in the report.
Finweek does not doubt that the department includes in those numbers the people of Lwandile and many more like them. People walk past the dry water taps in front of their homes every day to the nearby rivers to fetch water on their heads. Every winter, those with transport do a roaring trade selling water drawn from the Mdumbi and Mtakatye rivers at a price of R15 per 200 litres of water.
A combination of incompetence, maladministration, lack of skills and no culture of accountability on the part of the municipality, and a lack of service and a clear disregard for responsibility on the part of Eskom in the Eastern Cape, has ensured the people of Lwandile and neighbouring towns will go without water five years after their hopes were first raised.
An application was made to Eskom to supply the Lwandile project with electricity in May 2003. Almost four years later, Eskom has still not managed to successfully electrify the project. Instead of installing the requested 100kVA power, Eskom installed 64kVA, which was insufficient to power the two 380V underground water pumps. Exactly a year after it was agreed (27 January 2006, after Finweek broke the story) by Eskom, the municipality and consulting engineers, Uhambiso Consult, to install electricity invertors to upgrade the power supply to suit the requirements of the project (with promises to the community that water would start flowing before the March 2006 local elections), there is still no sign of any water.
The municipality and consulting engineers are again pointing fingers at Eskom, saying it is the parastatal that is still frustrating the project.
Director in charge of infrastructure at the OR Tambo district municipality, Aubrey Katsana, was initially not the least interested when Finweek brought up the subject of Lwandile. “What do you expect me to do? I have been asking Eskom to install the invertors and they kept promising they would install them the following month,” fumed Katsana. “What else can I do?”
Katsana said Eskom’s “manager” was always away. He could, however, not name the “manager” he had been dealing with, saying he forgot his name. Asked what else he was doing about the situation, Katsana said he had put together a team from the municipality to handle the affair. But again Katsana could not name a single member of that “team”.
Finweek is in possession of correspondence between Uhambiso Consult and Eskom in which the consulting engineers urge Eskom to install the invertors – to no avail.
Asked for comment, Eskom Southern Region (Eastern Cape) spokesperson Barry MacColl said part of the reason for the delay in providing electrical power to the project was a “combination of bad weather and the fact that graves were found on the construction site”. Permission was sought and obtained in May 2006 from the South African Heritage Resources Agency (SAHRA) to excavate the graves in terms of the National Heritage Resources Act of 1999.
However, between then and to date nothing has been done to electrify the project. Asked why this was the case, MacColl said the power would be supplied by the end of January 2007 and the project would be commissioned mid-February. “The invertors have been delivered and will begin to be installed on 22 January 2007. Thus we are confident the client will have supply points operational by mid-February.” Asked why anyone should believe Eskom’s promises this time round, MacColl said: “Eskom’s performance has not been satisfactory and for that we apologise. I give you our sincerest undertaking that the power will be up and running by the middle of February.”