Dam delays leave residents dry

2012-04-07 16:18

Mutshekwa Muhonelwa can’t remember the last time she had a proper bath.

All the elderly, sickly woman can afford to do is take a mug of water and sprinkle it over her face.

She cannot risk wasting the little water her nine-year-old grandson Ndivho Mathabise fetches from Phaphazela, some three kilometres from their home in Rotovhowa just outside Thohoyandou.

The little boy makes the trip every morning before he goes to school, but Phaphazela’s water supply is erratic and he sometimes returns empty- handed.

When this happens, Muhonelwa and her neighbours are forced to buy water from residents who have boreholes. This costs them R2 for 20 litres.

Muhonelwa said: “What if there is no water? What am I going to do? I cannot afford to buy water. I don’t work and I depend on grants to survive.”

Muhonelwa is not alone – her situation is echoed in numerous waterless villages in a 70km stretch between Makhado (formerly Louis Trichardt) and Thohoyandou.

The government is fully aware of water shortages in the region: in 2004 and 2006 the Department of Water Affairs came up with a plan to deal with the issue in Limpopo and Mpumalanga.

This involved pumping raw water out of the massive Nandoni Dam, which is located just outside Thohoyandou, and the Levuvhu River system which cuts between the provinces.

The water would then be directed into purification plants in several municipalities, and would ultimately reach residents in both provinces.

The department made two agreements with Amitech South Africa to deliver glass reinforced plastic pipes for the projects.

The first contract, signed in 2004, required Amitech to deliver the pipes for pumping raw water into Dwarsloop and Acornhoek – both communities were in Limpopo’s borders at the time, though they are now part of Mpumalanga.

Water Affairs is now accusing Amitech of failing to supply quality pipes and breaching contractual agreements, and has slapped the company with a summons, demanding R30 million which was paid to the company.

The department is demanding a further R148 million in damages. The second contract, signed in 2006, was for the delivery of pipes to pump raw water to communities between Thohoyandou and Makhado.

There’s court action by the department against Amitech in this case, too: it is demanding R63 million which it claims in court papers has already been paid to Amitech. It also wants R633 million in damages.

The department refused to say why it gave Amitech the second contract when the company allegedly failed to deliver on the first one.

It also refused to answer detailed questions, saying the matter was before the courts.

Amitech’s managing director Hein Momberg said the company was defending itself against the court action.
He declined to comment further.

Water Affairs has issued another tender for Amitech’s pipes to be replaced with steel pipes for both projects.

When City Press visited Thohoyandou this week, it found construction workers removing Amitech’s pipes, replacing them with steel ones.

This is a costly process: according to the parliamentary Standing Committee on Appropriations which visited the projects in September last year, the department has spent at least an extra R200 million on steel pipes for the Thohoyandou project.

In its post-visit report, the committee also revealed that the Thohoyandou project was supposed to be conducted using steel pipes in the first place.

However, engineers in the Department of Water Affairs motivated instead for the use of glass reinforced plastic pipes.

The committee complained that this had led not only to increased costs, but “delays in the delivery of water” to residents like Muhonelwa and her neighbours.

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