Maverick Citizen

ACTIVISTS’ EYE ON LIMPOPO

R2-billion spent on water contract in Giyani but villagers’ taps continue to run dry

R2-billion spent on water contract in Giyani but villagers’ taps continue to run dry
Residents waiting for water to be delivered by a water truck tanker from greater Giyani Municipality. (Photo: Israel Nkuna)

For 14 years, since the water project in Giyani district, Limpopo, was first announced, we have been living on rainwater and promises. 

The Special Investigation Unit (SIU) has just released its report into government water projects in the Giyani district, finding that a R90-million contract ballooned to R2-billion. The cash is flowing somewhere, but in my village of Mahlathi, the only way we get water is if it rains on our roofs and we collect it ourselves.

For years, we’ve been promised water. Former Minister in the Presidency Mondli Gungubele promised that every village in the district would be a construction site, and that the dust would be kicked up everywhere from all the activity. 

We certainly have dust in Mahlathi, Minister, but not thanks to water reticulation projects. 

Tenders and corruption

President Ramaphosa himself talked about local development in awarding contracts to local, qualified businesses for this very water reticulation project. Here’s how that panned out, President Ramaphosa. When a contractor arrived in my village, the ward councillor took control of recruitment, and ANC comrades got the jobs. 

Councillors are not meant to influence the appointment of contracts. Consultations are meant to take place with the communities and traditional authorities, who then elect a Community Project Committee. From the Community Project Committee, a Community Liaison Officer (CLO). 

The CLO has to see that the project is going smoothly, and that there is no corruption. He has to inform the community about the project and be able to judge if there is anything wrong between the contractor and the workers. The CLO reports back to the Community Project Committee with updates. 

Giyani water project

A sign board indicates where the site is. (Photo: Israel Nkuna)

Now, I recognise that there are a lot of processes, committees and roles. But they are a way — the only way we have — to make sure there is accountability to our community. Yes, it’s not straightforward, so I did my best to walk our councillor through the process, since I’ve been a CLO myself before. The action our councillor took? He appointed only ANC members to an ad hoc panel, who appointed the ANC branch leader as Community Liaison Officer! 

One of the most upsetting things for me was that a pastor was part of the committee — someone who can’t leave a church podium without mentioning the ANC. But we weren’t so easily fooled. We rejected the councillor’s appointment of ANC members. When the councillor in question reported me for undermining him, the Mahlathi council and traditional leadership supported me. 

Perhaps there would at least be some job opportunities, even if the main beneficiaries were ANC cronies? 

Read more in Daily Maverick: Limpopo villagers along the D3810 say no to voter registration

In fact, several positions came up and interviews were even conducted for engineering roles. One community member I know of passed her interview, then weeks later was told they wouldn’t appoint her — and hung up the phone. It was a devastating blow to this young woman and her family.

Instead of a rush of water into our villages, there was a rush to register new companies and open bank accounts before subcontractors were appointed — that same CLO who is an ANC branch chairperson was then awarded a contract.

Our traditional leader called a meeting to investigate the appointment of the CLO and sub-contractors, and it seemed like at least someone was doing something. But then he delayed his meeting, then failed to take any action. Now there are suspicions, and some community members say we don’t have a chief. 

reservoir of Mahlathi village

The reservoir of Mahlathi village, Limpopo, that will supply the community with water, in the process of being cleaned and repainted because it was leaking. (Photo: Israel Nkuna)

Contracts flow to relatives and friends of ANC councillors

Other regions near me have had the same experience. Contracts flow to relatives and friends. 

Another resident claims that an ANC councillor in the neighbouring village of Ndindani used his details as a service provider in the community to bid for a tender — the service provider was surprised to find that he wasn’t given the contract at all, and his name had just been used as cover. Then the same councillor called his daughter home from Johannesburg to work on the project alongside other friends and family.

Instead of being leaders who alleviate hunger, unemployment, food shortages, violence, corruption and crime, our local ANC leaders have become the sources of these ills. The ANC national leadership clearly thinks we count for so little that we will continue voting for them, no matter the corruption and the lack of services — services they are obliged to provide us according to our Constitution. And around election time, they will come here trying to scare old and vulnerable people that voting for anyone else will mean the end of the Sassa grants. 

The pipeline that extends to Mahlathi Village. (Photo: Israel Nkuna)

For 14 years, since the project was first announced, we have been living on rainwater and promises. Among the only voices that have spoken up in recent years is ActionSA, whose leader Herman Mashaba and their Limpopo provincial chairperson, have both conducted interviews on it. 

The EFF have asked questions in parliament, and the DA have released press statements. But very few have come to Giyani and the surrounding villages to see for themselves how we live — how we collect rainwater in buckets from our rooftops. Or scrape together money to buy water from those who sell from their boreholes, walking 10km — during heat waves — to fetch it in wheelbarrows. Or wait for water tankers requested from the municipality… and wait, because our requests are ignored.

We are grateful for anyone who raises the issues of corruption and nepotism in the water project that was meant to give us life. We are hopeful that, now that the SIU report is out, there will be consequences for the wrongdoers. 

But who is presenting an alternative to the ANC? We would like to see you in Giyani. 

Maybe there’s a chance, in the 2024 elections, to vote out corruption and nepotism. DM

Israel Nkuna is a ward committee representative at Ward 19, community activist, human rights, social grants activist and writer at Mahlathi Village in Limpopo, Giyani. Israel will be writing monthly articles about election 2024 painting pictures in his villages and the entire Giyani. You may also contact him to: [email protected] 

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • moloieric2 says:

    This rotten party must just be voted out of government, i hope everybody will not fall for their sweet talk this time

  • Cross Nzama Mashele says:

    The only way to get rid of the monster ANC, is to change a direction. For 30 yrs being deceived to vote ANC, are we people colour blind to see the way ? Enough is enough let’s join hands to remove ANC of its helm. What Israel Nkuna elaborated is happening in every Giyani Villages. If we can all stand in one word and vote ANC out for good. If we are unable to take ANC out in May 2024 ,we will be like Zimbabwe mark my words.

  • Fanie Rajesh Ngabiso says:

    ANC, it is time to go.

    South Africans, vote for a party that prioritizes service delivery over everything else.

  • Indeed we are struggling with water here at Mahlathi Village even the road we don’t have and the president himself promised us those things for years now but nothing is happening. So this time no one is going to vote

    • Matthew Quinton says:

      …”So this time no one is going to vote”…

      And THIS ladies and Gentlemen is the truth on the ground and the reason we are stuck with the ANC forever.

      This person clearly believes that there are only 2 options when it comes to voting… ANC or no vote… there isn’t even the mental process of “Gee, if I vote for someone else, maybe they will do a different job to the ANC”

      What we are seeing here is not Democracy, it is Tribalism. The ANC is the tribe and the councillors and members of parliament are the chiefs and their ilk.

      Either the chief takes care of you or you complain to the chief … or you get grumpy and you sulk (don’t vote)… but that mental leap of realising that those other patterns on the piece of paper you see on election day are actually other political parties which could do a different job, that is just not happening yet.

      Haibo… nope…. didn’t notice them… didn’t realise that was how it works… just thought election day was when you put the X in the box next to the familiar colors of the chicken and T-shirt provider.

      Who needs to read for understanding when you can recognise a basic pattern and get your happy meal.

  • Israel is a good writer wishing him the best hope he becomes the incoming ward councilor maybe something will change or might he becomes a greater giyani municipal mayor. He is caring man i see him at my village. Wishing him the best and get support from my village.

  • The best ward committee in ward 19 is a an asset for the community of mahlathi. Hope the community support him the freedom is coming. Let’s be behind of ward committee to expose corrupt people corrupt and.

  • Weather you like it or not Mr Israel is exposing the corrupt people in mahlathi and entire giyani. Anc people think they are intouchouble. Youth must be unite and remove anc people from power.

  • Oh wow brilliant piece, we need kind of articles. Hope it reaches everywhere in this country. Hope daily maverick is proud of you Mr Israel because you are asset. Keep up the good work and the voice.

  • Patrick Chauke says:

    The ANC government is playing games with our lives. Water is a basic resource everyone must have but they are taking the billions aimed to provide it into their pockets. 2024 we must vote wisely.

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