‘Failure of epic proportions’ — lifting the lid on Gayton McKenzie’s flush toilets project
Sub-standard work, leaking sewage, unauthorised contracts and health and safety risks are some of the issues raised around the much-hyped flush toilets built at the behest of Central Karoo District Mayor Gayton McKenzie.
Replacing the bucket system with flush toilets in parts of his constituency was celebrated with great fanfare in July by Gayton McKenzie, the Central Karoo District mayor.
But, a month later, the work has been described as shoddy.
This was revealed after an oversight visit by Sharna Fernandez, the DA’s constituency head in Prince Albert in the Central Karoo District Municipality (CKDM).
McKenzie boasted on social media that he had replaced the bucket system with flushing toilets in parts of the Karoo and posted a picture of an elderly woman with her new flush toilet.
The eradication of the bucket system was also a bone of contention during a spat with the owner of the Karoo Gateway Airport, Dr Bambie Heiberg, an entrepreneur and former Springbok athlete.
During his speech celebrating his 100 days as mayor, McKenzie publicly thanked Patriotic Alliance members and party Deputy Chairperson Kenny Kunene for the role they played in creating employment and addressing basic needs which included eradicating the bucket toilets and repairing potholes.
McKenzie said then that although no money was available to foot the bill for putting in toilets and repairing potholes, Kunene came to the rescue and arranged a gala dinner in Sandton that raised close to R2-million.
Following her oversight visit on 15 August, Fernandez said it was evident that McKenzie had sent his contractor to make good on some of the problematic issues raised during an earlier visit.
“Sadly, the effort to cover the sewage spill was incomplete as there is still sewage in the area, which poses a health risk and violates the National Environmental Management Act.
“The efforts to secure the open drains and sewerage infrastructure are suboptimal and do not meet the South African National Standards requirements. There is no evidence of quality assurance. The cement of one of the drains is already cracking and some are still shored up with rocks. Another drain is leaking sewage into the nearby river and underground natural resources,” Fernandez said.
She said that most concerning was the fact that health, safety and environmental protocols had not been followed since the inception of the alleged illegal work done here. Children were still playing in the area, which had not been cordoned off.
Fernandez said that McKenzie had ignored a letter from the Prince Albert Municipality requesting him to follow the procurement process and get approval for construction design, technical design reports and the employment of an accredited contractor.
Concerns raised included that:
- The project was initiated without approval from the Prince Albert Municipality;
- There was and is no funding allocated for this project by the municipality;
- The scope of work is in no way based on standard specifications;
- The entire project poses a health, safety and environmental risk because it does not meet minimum requirements; and
- The substandard work has placed the municipality under pressure as citizens expect the municipality to address the sewage spills. This also affects the local government’s budget and operational activities.
The acting mayor of Prince Albert, Linda Jaquet, said: “I can confirm that on 27 June 2022, the acting municipal manager, Aldrick Hendricks, asked the municipal manager of the CKDM, suspended Dr Sitembele Vatala, to submit building plans urgently for the excavation work that had started at Newton Park to the Prince Albert Municipality.
“He noted that all work had to be in line with national building regulations and that the municipality had to be informed where the sewage lines ran. Hendricks followed up in writing with Dr Vatala but, to date, has not had any formal response.”
Hendricks also wrote to the contractor on 5 July requesting that he comply with the requirements. However, the work continued and the request was ignored, Jaquet said.
Fernandez has since appealed to McKenzie to urgently negotiate with the Prince Albert Municipality to remedy the illegal work and ensure that all risks and regulatory requirements have been addressed, at his own expense and not that of the municipality, since McKenzie embarked on the project without the required processes being followed and approvals sought.
“The liability for this failure of epic proportions resides with the district mayor, who needs to familiarise himself with all the legislation pertinent to all spheres of government and his role as the district mayor,” she said.
A separate oversight conducted by the Western Cape Provincial Government’s Standing Committee on Human Settlements indicated that about 180 households in the Central Karoo District still used the bucket system despite McKenzie claiming that the system had been eradicated.
Matlhodi Maseko, the DA’s Western Cape spokesperson on human settlements, said he would submit parliamentary questions to the human settlements and infrastructure MEC, Tertuis Simmers, to request details about any human settlements grant that may have been spent on the eradication of bucket toilets in the Central Karoo.
Simmers told Daily Maverick on Thursday that he had seen videos and pictures of sewage seeping into the ground in the Central Karoo. This, he said, posed a health and environmental risk.
“We as public officers have a duty if we want to improve the quality of life of residents to make sure that such projects are done within the framework and regulations stipulated. Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning MEC Anton Bredell has since sent engineers to look at the extent of the sewage spill and the implications,” Simmers said.
McKenzie’s spokesperson, Meshe Habana, did not reply to Daily Maverick’s request for comment. DM