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UNFOLDING CRISIS

Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17

Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17
A giant crane stands in the middle of the Rooiwal Waste Water Works. The plant releases water to the Leeuwkraal Dam, which supplies the Temba water treatment plant that in turn supplies water to cholera-hit Hammanskraal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

‘We have failed to eradicate a network of corruption,’ said Tshwane’s executive mayor Cilliers Brink, while the capital scrambles to find the source of a deadly cholera outbreak and plans to pump millions into a water treatment plant.

Pretoria expects to spend R150-million annually over the next three years towards refurbishing the Rooiwal WasteWater Treatment Plant which Parliament three years ago said had been poorly operated and maintained.

Raw sewage has been pouring into a river near the plant, which treats Hammanskraal’s sewage. For many years Hammanskraal residents have been subjected to ‘‘undrinkable” water, while upgrades of the plant commenced and never finished.

“The situation is bad,” said environmental justice activist Dr Ferrial Adams, of WaterCAN, an initiative of the Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse. 

Adams said Hammanskraal’s tap water was found to be unfit for drinking when they tested it in July 2019. They found high levels of E. coli, a bacteria that is found in human intestines and comes from sewage pollution. The following month the SAHRC declared the water in Hammanskraal “unfit for human consumption”.

As of midday on Wednesday, 17 people in Hammanskraal had died from cholera. Mayor Brink said the city was striving to find the source. If the source remained undiscovered, the outbreak would be difficult to contain, he said, adding that laboratory tests on water from Hammanskraal had failed to detect the presence of the bacteria that cause cholera.

EFF angered

On Wednesday, Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) members disrupted council proceedings several times, saying they should not continue until Brink drank Hammanskraal water to prove it was safe for human consumption.

“We have water from Hammanskraal; Brink must drink the water because he is busy parading tests saying there is no cholera. So, drink that water and see if you will wake up in the morning. If the water from Hammanskraal is clean, then drink the water and let us get sick together,” said EFF regional chairperson Obakeng Ramabodu.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Cholera death toll in Hammanskraal rises to 15 as probe yet to find source of contaminated water 

tshwane rooiwal

The Rooiwal Waste Water Works. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

The City’s MMC for finance, Peter Sutton, on Wednesday tabled his budget speech for the 2023/24 financial year, which saw R450-million allocated to upgrading the Rooiwal WasteWater Treatment Plant amid the current water and cholera crisis in Hammanskraal.

As far back as 2004, there were indications the plant would not be able to keep up with the demand for water purification, due to the growing population of Hammanskraal, and its infrastructure has since deteriorated. 

In 2019, the city awarded a tender of more than R250-million for a refurbishment project at the Rooiwal plant to a joint venture of CMS Water, NJR and Blackhead Consulting, which is linked to State Capture-implicated businessman Edwin Sodi.

Phase one of the refurbishment project was contracted in January 2020. However, the work was never completed because the city cancelled the contract in June 2022. Brink said at the time that only 60% of the first phase had been completed. Now the city is investigating whether a guarantee was paid by the consortium, which the city can claim back.

It appears that Tshwane’s failure to oversee the completion of the refurbishment of the Rooiwal plant has come back to bite. 

‘Captured’ officials

Speaking to Newzroom Afrika, Brink said Sodi’s company should never have been awarded the tender, given the Free State asbestos refurbishment scandal hanging over his head. He said that officials who presided over the bidding process for the Rooiwal tender were possibly “captured”.

Brink said the council had considered a forensic report that implicated city officials and disciplinary hearings against several senior municipal officials were now at an advanced stage.

“I think, as the DA and as the coalition in Tshwane, we have failed to eradicate a network of corruption that has been in the city for the past 20 years and we have to be honest about that,” said Brink.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals 

Visit to Rooiwal water treatment plant 

Daily Maverick’s Felix Dlangamandla visited the purification plant on Tuesday morning.

tshwane rooiwal crane

The giant crane that stands in the middle of the Rooiwal Waste Water Works. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“Within an hour of my arrival, the plant manager allowed me in,” he said. “The first thing I noticed was a massive mobile crane at the water purification plant — one that you hire for construction work and costs thousands to hire daily.

“I was told that it had been standing there for almost a year, left by a construction company that was working there. I also spotted a few ship containers on the premises, the ones that construction workers use to keep their tools in.

“The buildings had no lights and it seemed like there was no power at the plant. When asked, a worker said that the substation nearby was down and the power was off.

tshwane rooiwal basins

Empty basins at the Rooiwal Waste Water Works. (Photo:Felix Dlangamandla)

“I received permission to take photographs. When I looked at the screen, I saw three circular structures (I think they are wastewater structures) that are not complete. In the middle of them is the massive abandoned crane… I took my images and left. I just kept thinking, the crane has been standing for a year, then there must be a problem and cranes don’t come cheap. The power still wasn’t on when I left, hours later.”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Hammanskraal residents thirsty for rapid resolution as sluggish refurbishment process deepens water crisis 

Unaccountable city

ActionSA held a commission of inquiry into this matter ahead of the 2021 elections. According to the report, the City of Tshwane had been “insensitive, irresponsive, non-transparent, unaccountable and marked with delinquent inertia on the water crisis in Hammanskraal”.

Like ActionSA, WaterCAN’s Adams said it was good and well to pump money, but what was more crucial was accountability.

“Why are we not holding people accountable? Someone must be charged, and all the political parties that are playing games and trying to score points, it is so disruptive,” she said. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Stefano M says:

    Regurgitating once again disgust, dismay, anger, frustration etc at the mess this, like other municipalities, is in serves little purpose. Apathy of the SA voters is a far bigger problem than cadre deployment. Talk to most young South Africans and you will get a sense of total disinterest. I’ve been a DA voter since the dawn of our new South Africa but sadly I see little evidence in our various social media channels of a strategy or campaign to attract young people. Mandla Lionel Isaacs has an article on yesterday’s DM Opinionista section I recommend everyone should read. He is from the new movement called Rise Mzansi formed by Songezo Zibi, ex editor of Business Day.
    Rise Mzansi is using all social media channels and anyone young and old can join for free. To join the “DA Youth” you need to be a member of the DA and you have to pay R10 to join. This is clearly a failing of the DA. Black youth generally do not trust the DA. This certainly does not help change their image.

  • Mikeb1979 says:

    Why do we have disciplinary hearings for criminal matters?

    • André Pelser says:

      Agreed, but this is also a failure of governance oversight, what did councillors do to address the issue?
      Any court cases? Charges laid?

  • Ian McGill says:

    Never mind the trail of destruction the ANC has left behind the cost of reconstruction is, I contend, another tentacle of corruption. R3 billion? for a repair job? Someone is having a laugh!

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    There is only one cause – the ANC.

    Hamba wena – kawuleza.

  • Ryckard Blake says:

    Marie Antoinette’s response to protests by the sans culottes was “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche!”, or Let ’em eat Cake!
    The ANC illuminati, always aping the glitterati of their colonizers, were happy, it seems, to adopt this slogan. But, just like everything of worth which they touched was soon reduced to a stinking mess, they corrupted this response to “Let them eat k@k”.
    May SA’s current rotten leaders suffer the same fate at the hands of their once supporters, as did Marie Antoinette and her ilk at the Place de la Concorde.

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