By MALIKHANYE MANKAYI and ANNA MAJAVU
The Makana Citizens’ Front (MCF) says if the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) does not report back soon on its investigation into the overspend of more than R300 million on the James Kleyhans Water Treatment Works, it will be forced to mobilise mass protests.
The treatment works have been undergoing an upgrade since March 2015. Originally scheduled to take three years, the upgrade is still not complete eight years on. The R50 million budget for the upgrade first skyrocketed to R237 million and then to R414 million.
In November 2022, the main contractor, Mamlambo Construction, was liquidated. Subcontractors are now completing the upgrade, which a Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant is funding.
“They say it is 90% finished, but it is far from. We are in a crisis in Makhanda. People are spending four days without water, and there is no communication with the community; there are no water trucks. We want to see action; we want to see people held accountable. The SIU must come to the community and give feedback so that people know something is being done,” MCF councillor Lungisa Sixaba told Grocott’s Mail.
Sixaba said MCF councillors would be “in the forefront” of the protests if the SIU did not report back on the investigation soon.
“If the SIU is committed to making things right, they will come and report back as soon as tomorrow,” said MCF councillor Zonwabele Mantla.
Mantla and MCF deputy chairperson Tshezi Soxujwa paid a visit to the James Kleyhans Water Treatment Works in late January to follow up on the government’s promise to have the plant up and running by 2023. A new contractor was working on site, but the project still appeared far from completion.
In November 2022, Parliament’s Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA) portfolio committee said they had appointed the Special Investigations Unit (SIU) to investigate, and it was “due to table an investigative report on the escalating costs”.
Soxujwa said government and municipal officials are “heartless” when ensuring impoverished communities are not affected by the climate crisis. “They don’t care if it affects us. The same applies to corruption – for as long as they buy nice cars and houses for themselves, everything is fine. For them, it does not matter that we are always drinking dirty water,” said Soxujwa.
The upgrade is set to end water shedding in Makhanda. Currently, the treatment works deliver only 10 million litres of water per day to the town, which needs a minimum of 20 million litres per day if the town is to have water daily.
In the meantime, water-shedding continues, and township communities in Makhanda bear the brunt.
“We have no energy and water alternatives: we are just at the receiving end. We cannot dig boreholes. This water crisis impacts our vegetable gardens, and we are condemned to live a life of non-dignity, a lifeless life. We have never witnessed an arrest in this municipality and have only seen arrests in other municipalities. Even if there is only one arrest, we will be happy, and at least we will know that someone has been held accountable,” said Kota.
SIU spokesperson Kaizer Kganyago did not respond when Grocott’s Mail asked if the SIU would convene a community meeting to update Makhanda residents on the progress of the investigation.