Show me one who can do the job!

Costly dilly-dal­ly­ing by Eskom and OR Tambo dis­trict mu­nic­i­pal­ity

Finweek English Edition - - Openers - SIKONATHI MANTSHANTSHA

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.”

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