Wa­ter project pay­ment spat leads to boy drown­ing

The Citizen (Gauteng) - - NEWS - Alex Mat­lala

The pro­tracted pay­ment dis­pute be­tween the na­tional depart­ment of wa­ter and san­i­ta­tion and Khato Civils, a con­struc­tion and en­gi­neer­ing com­pany work­ing on a bulk wa­ter project in Giyani, re­sulted in the death of a six-yearold over the week­end.

The boy, Nsuku Mh­longo of Homu vil­lage, was play­ing with friends when he fell into an open trench the com­pany had left. His friends ran to get help, but when his par­ents ar­rived at the scene he was dead. The trench was full of wa­ter after tor­ren­tial rains in Lim­popo.

The spokesper­son for the po­lice in Lim­popo, Colonel Moat­she Ngoepe, said the tragedy hap­pened on Satur­day and that po­lice had opened an in­quest docket.

Dubbed the Giyani Emer­gency Wa­ter Ser­vice, the project started in 2014, after five years of drought.

In Oc­to­ber last year, Khato Civils tack­led the depart­ment over un­paid in­voices amount­ing to R44 mil­lion. The fol­low­ing month, the com­pany aban­doned the project after still not be­ing paid.

Fo­rum of Lim­popo En­trepreneurs sec­re­tary Siviko Mabunda has ad­vised the be­reaved fam­ily to open a case of mur­der against the com­pany.

“Khato was only in­ter­ested in how much money they were mak­ing rather than the safety and well-be­ing of our peo­ple. That is why the fo­rum is go­ing to fight to en­sure that Khato Civils has its day in court. We will ac­com­pany the fam­ily to the po­lice sta­tion to open a case of mur­der,” he added.

Re­spond­ing to the fo­rum’s claims, Khato Civils said their pre­lim­i­nary in­ves­ti­ga­tion found that mea­sures were put in place in line with the safety laws and reg­u­la­tions.

“The in­ci­dent hap­pened be­cause there was in­ter­fer­ence with the mea­sures put in place. Bar­ri­cades put were around the trench to pre­vent peo­ple and an­i­mals from en­ter­ing the site. This was be­cause we moved off site due to non-pay­ment and there­fore there was no main­te­nance on the en­tire project dur­ing that time. But we are reach­ing out to the fam­ily of the de­ceased,” Khato CEO Mongezi Mnyani said.

Depart­ment spokesper­son Sput­nik Ratau said the depart­ment was en­gag­ing with Le­pelle North­ern Wa­ter, which ap­pointed the ser­vice provider, about the in­ci­dent. Le­pelle is an im­ple­ment­ing agent for the depart­ment in Lim­popo.

Pic­ture: Letaba Her­ald

BAR­RI­ERS RE­MOVED. The trench in which a Lim­popo boy drowned over the week­end.

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