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WATER CRISIS

SIU to probe Tshwane’s R295m Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant tender

SIU to probe Tshwane’s R295m Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant tender
President Cyril Ramaphosa (centre) looks on during his visit in June 2023 to the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant that was at the centre of the cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal, Tshwane. (Photo: Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)

President Cyril Ramaphosa has authorised the Special Investigating Unit to probe the City of Tshwane’s R295-million tender to refurbish the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant.

Three years after the City of Tshwane “irregularly” awarded a R295-million Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant tender to State Capture-implicated businessman Edwin Sodi, President Cyril Ramaphosa has ordered that it be investigated.   

The tender, awarded to a joint venture between CMS Water, NJR and Blackhead Consulting, linked to Sodi, was meant to refurbish and upgrade the treatment plant’s deteriorating infrastructure. 

Phase 1 of the refurbishment project was contracted in January 2020. However, the work was never completed because the city cancelled the contract in June 2022.

rooiwal tshwane

Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink. (Photo: Gallo Images / Rapport / Deon Raath)

In May 2023, Executive Mayor Cilliers Brink said that only 60% of the first phase had been completed and the city was investigating whether a guarantee had been paid by the consortium, which the city could claim back.

Ramaphosa signed the proclamation on 12 September, and it was published at the weekend. It enables the Special Investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate allegations of maladministration and corruption in regard to the tender and to recover any financial losses suffered by the state.

“Proclamation R138 of 2023 authorises the SIU to probe the procurement and/or contracting for construction of Phase 1 upgrades and urgent refurbishment at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works.  

“The SIU will also investigate any unauthorised, irregular or fruitless and wasteful expenditure incurred by the city of Tshwane metropolitan municipality or the state,” the proclamation states.

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

‘Irregular tender’

Brink said, “We welcome the decision to declare an SIU investigation into the 2020 tender to upgrade the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant. According to the city’s own forensic investigation, the tender was irregularly awarded; it also failed before the work could be completed.”   

The DA’s Tshwane caucus spokesperson, Kwena Moloto, said the proclamation was a significant milestone in the eradication of corruption within the City of Tshwane. 

“The DA has been resolute in dismantling the intricate web of corruption and political favouritism that was inherited from the previous administration. This mission remains ongoing, and the current investigation stands as a pivotal moment in our continuous efforts to rid the administration of corrupt officials. 

“The DA believes that this investigation will not only unveil the depths of corruption and political patronage networks that persist in Tshwane but will also contribute to the critical task of recovering funds that the metro is in dire need of.”

While Moloto put the blame squarely on the previous ANC-led administration, Brink has admitted that the DA too had failed in its oversight functions.

“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,” Brink said.

Daily Maverick was unable to reach the ANC for comment.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17 

ActionSA’s Gauteng chairperson, Funzi Ngobeni, said, “We welcome this proclamation, as it will hold all those linked to corruption cases in Tshwane and guilty of offences such as maladministration, the intentional loss of public money, and improper conduct that [has] caused harm to the public interest, accountable.

“ActionSA has long championed this fight, having lodged complaints to the Public Protector and the South African Human Rights Commission against the city and former mayor Randall Williams for their failure to act responsibly.

“We look forward to what this proclamation has to offer as we remain committed to restoring the rights of residents affected by the debacle and re-establishing good governance along with financial stability.”

‘Undrinkable’ water

Three years ago, Parliament said Rooiwal had been poorly managed and maintained.

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

Tshwane’s finances are shambolic as it struggles to pay its creditors including Eskom and Rand Water. It is also battling to contain a municipal strike over salary increments which has turned violent and led to the torching of several of its vehicles and properties. 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Financially distressed Tshwane battles with ongoing strike, water shortages and service delivery failures  

Politics in Tshwane have been turbulent since the 2016 local government elections, with no party holding a majority in the council. After the 2021 local elections, the DA has been in a rocky coalition with ActionSA, the IFP, DA, Freedom Front Plus and ACDP.

When tabling his budget speech for the 2023/24 financial year, the city’s MMC for finance, Peter Sutton, said R450-million would be allocated to upgrading the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant. DM

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