Big stink over Secunda toilet corruption

2012-09-19 06:51

Children play in rivers of raw after contractors pocket infrastructure funds

Even on a dry winter’s afternoon, Embalenhle township’s streets are flowing as if it has been raining.

Dam-like pools of water have formed in some places.

A foetid smell pervades the area.

The township’s toilets are overflowing with excrement and its broken sewer pipelines are leaking.

None of the area’s four pump stations which have to process the waste is functioning: one is not even connected to the network.

Waterborne toilets were built for Embalenhle – but none is connected to the water system.

More than R135 million was spent to eradicate bucket toilets and install sewer connections in this township near Secunda.

Of this, R78.8 million was pocketed by contractors and consultants.

The Embalenhle sewer system has not worked since 2005.

The project was part of national government’s initiative to eradicate 252 254 bucket toilets throughout the country by December 2007.

The Govan Mbeki local council is in possession of two scathing forensic reports about the situation in Embalenhle, but it has not yet taken any action.

Govan Mbeki municipal spokesperson Themba Motlankana said the municipality could not respond to written questions until tomorrow.

“We need time to gather facts,” Motlankana said.

One forensic investigation was done by financial services company SizweNtsaluba VSP in 2008.

The second was concluded by Mpumalanga’s municipal public accounts committee (MPAC) in January this year.

Residents have been left to their own devices to solve the problem, but their solutions are not working.

They try to improvise by digging furrows to divert the sewage out of their yards onto the streets and the storm water drains along the main road.

“There are times when I can’t eat and sleep because of the stink,” said Emely Moyo (43).

“We wake up to find toilets overflowing. Neighbours fight because of the sewage. They accuse one another of digging furrows the wrong way, which directs the flow into the yards.”

Annah Khanyi (32), whose toilet had been blocked for a week when City Press visited this week, explained: “We pour water from buckets to flush our waste. Young children just wade into sewage because they think it’s water.”

SizweNtsaluba VSP said in its scathing report that it tried to get designs and drawings of the project from Govan Mbeki, the Gert Sibande district municipality and consultants, without success.

The consultants, said the report, were also appointed without proper procurement procedures.

“Prior to the implementation of the project, (technical divisions) of the municipalities should have required the consultants to provide them with preliminary designs, drawings and reports for approval,” the company said in its report.

The province’s MPAC followed up on the SizweNtsaluba investigation, and found that municipal officials had diverted funds allocated to fix the problem to hire a company to investigate if due diligence was done on the project.

But this aspect of the investigation had already been done by SizweNtsaluba.

The MPAC report has not been tabled before council as the ANC’s regional executive members removed some councillors from the committee in May.

“The regional executive committee members said the report would embarrass the municipality and the ANC if it were to be made public.

“They’re protecting the implicated officials and continue to enrich consultants instead of fixing the problem,” said a councillor.

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