By ‘Odidi Matai-Sigudla
Following numerous delays to the expansion of the James Kleynhans Water Treatment Works project, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, accompanied by the Executive Mayor of Sarah Baartman District Municipality Deon de Vos, the Eastern Cape MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs Zolile Williams, and Makana’s Executive Mayor Yandiswa Vara visited the site on 16 August to assess the progress of the project that is more than six years behind schedule.
The project to expand the plant began in 2015 under Amatola Water, with the contractor being Mamlambo Construction Company, which was later liquidated in June 2022. Mamlambo missed its December 2017 scheduled completion date, and then missed three more scheduled completion dates in July 2021, September 2021, and March 2022.
When Parliament’s Portfolio Committee on Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (CoGTA) visited the site in September 2022, they were shocked to hear that the cost of the R50 million incomplete project had skyrocketed to R237 million. In November 2022, another contractor, Water and Wastewater Technology SA, was appointed to complete the project by June 2023. This deadline was also missed and 12 December 2023 is now the new scheduled completion date.
“I want to forget about the past and leave it to the past and deal with the current situation,” responded Mchunu when the project delays were mentioned. “Currently, they are working; currently, they are on schedule, and currently, they are also scheduled to finish on time,” he said.
The current demand for water in Makhanda is 18 megalitres per day, but the goal is to produce 19 megalitres daily – an extra one million litres per day. The plant has the capacity to produce 20 megalitres daily. The addition of new settling tanks is complete, maintenance of old filtration is underway with the new filtration still in progress and to be done by the end of August, and pump work is to be pushed through December, the visit heard. These conditions have been agreed by the contractor.
“We all agreed to this,” Mchunu said. “Whether it is raining or not raining, we have to make sure that this time around, we pull everything together on time.”
He pointed out that there are many water problems that Makhanda will still face, such as poor water quality, leaks, management of the water supply system, and general services that still need to be tackled. “I have already expressed concerns that this town is a fairly large town, servicing quite a number of people too… And so we can’t afford to be wishy-washy about supply of water to people,” Mchunu added.