Deluge of political bickering but little water for KZN area
● Nonkululeko Ngcobo considers herself lucky.
The borehole she gets water from is a stone’s throw from her home in the rural village of KwaDabhasi in northern KwaZulu-Natal.
But more than 5 000 people in her village, outside Nongoma, are not so lucky. Many villagers, including children at the Nkawu Secondary School, have to walk about 1km to collect water from the borehole.
KwaDabhasi is at the centre of a water crisis that turned political this week, with former water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane central to the complaint.
Zululand district municipality mayor Thulasizwe Buthelezi accused the Department of Water and Sanitation, via Mhlathuze Water, of squandering R185million intended to supply much-needed water to KwaDabhasi and other areas in the district.
The mayor of the IFP-led council said there was “no evidence” to show that Mhlathuze Water had rolled out any of the infrastructure, despite the money being allocated in the 2015-16 financial year.
“The municipality is of the view that resources from the national fiscus meant for poor communities have been diverted elsewhere,” he said in a letter to Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti.
Similar letters were sent to Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene and public protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane.
Mhlathuze Water has denied any wrongdoing. While the fight goes on way above the villagers’ heads, they continue to struggle for access to water.
Nkawu principal Vusi Ngcobo said when rain was scarce pupils had to collect water from the borehole.
Unemployed mother of four Phindile Ntombela said when one borehole did not have water, they had to walk far to another one.
The situation comes in spite of the fact that Mhlathuze Water was allocated R185-million by the Department of Water and Sanitation to provide water for the AbaQulusi and Nongoma local municipalities. Buthelezi blamed the ANC and Mokonyane.
“This was a political ploy by the ANC led by Nomvula Mokonyane to win those wards ahead of the local government election,” he said.
Mhlathuze Water was appointed by the Department of Water and Sanitation to complete water supply projects in AbaQulusi and Nongoma municipalities during the 2015-16 financial year. These projects were undertaken as part of ministerial directives issued to Mhlathuze to address water supply challenges in the Zululand district municipality.
The R185-million was made available as part of an emergency intervention allocation, but this was ringfenced and later adjusted to R140-million to cover interventions for 2017-18 and 2018-19.
The amount was to cater for borehole installations in five wards in Nongoma and to supply potable water to rural settlements in four wards in Vryheid through local springs.
The tender for the AbaQulusi water project was awarded to Durban-based Afriscan Construction, previously linked to Sibusiso Ncube, husband of KwaZulu-Natal co-operative governance and traditional affairs MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube.
Afriscan was also one of the companies that was awarded a main contract, worth millions of rands, four years ago for bulk water supply for the Umkhanyakude district municipality.
The contractors for the Nongoma water supply project are MIS Construction and Makheleni Construction.
Documents seen by the Sunday Times indicate that the initial contractor terminated its contract due to nonpayment as the Department of Water and Sanitation had delayed releasing the funds. But Mhlathuze Water was able to pay the contractor, which still opted to terminate the contract. The matter is currently under adjudication. Only 23% of the work had been completed at the time of the termination.
Mhlathuze Water spokesman Siyabonga Maphumulo said the allegations “would be laughable were they not so tragic”.
Water and sanitation spokesman Sputnik Ratau said it was unfair to bring Mokonyane into the issue.
“That was an allocation to Mhlathuze Water and it’s a normal operational issue and Mhlathuze has given an indication of what they have done.”
Villagers in KwaDabhasi in Nongoma, northern KwaZulu-Natal, have to fetch water.