Dreams drown in raw sewage

2012-04-07 14:46

Moeding was once a normal township street. But no cars drive past any more. People loathe walking down this road. What was once a street is now a river flowing with raw sewage.

The streets of Monyakeng near Wesselsbron in the Free State bear testimony to a combination of the ineptitude of contractors who walked away with more than R70 million and municipal ­officials who paid them despite glaring shortcomings in their work.

In a desperate attempt to get government to account for the mess, concerned residents have laid charges of fraud with the Hawks against officials from ­Nala municipality, which includes the town of Bothaville.

They have also lodged a complaint with the provincial office of the public protector.

“What we realised was there was no ­political willingness to deal with this case so we took the report (investigated by auditing firm KPMG) to the ­police,” says community spokesperson Monyakeng Selemeni.

“We wanted to know when action was going to be taken against officials implicated in this report and we were not getting answers,” he says.

KPMG’s explosive report was compiled in November 2010 following a lengthy investigation into the affairs of the beleaguered municipality.

Among the claims in the report were that council speaker Nozililo Mashiya allegedly used the council credit card to buy more than R10 000 worth of liquor.

The report, which covered tenders awarded by the municipality from ­July 1 2008 to June 30 2010, also found that the former mayor, Mpai Mogorosi, allegedly spent R230 000 of council funds to build a perimeter wall around her ­parents’ home in Bothaville.

Mogorosi is now deputy secretary-general of the ANC Women’s League and a member of Parliament
KPMG’s investigators also found that more than 50% of service delivery projects undertaken during the 2008/10 period were not completed.

This was despite the fact that council funds were spent, and exhausted, for this purpose, apparently as a result of officials failing to follow proper tender procedures and in some cases awarding contracts to companies that were paid much more than was budgeted for.

Municipal officials were also accused of spending more than R160 000 on fuel for more than 207 cars that did not belong to the municipality.

And the council could not account for R705 000 allegedly used to pay “ghost” workers.

The report found there was falsification of documents, breach of internal processes in the awarding of tenders and manipulation of the supply chain.

But the biggest stink remains the more than R70 million spent on the bucket eradication project.

The project has resulted in more ­problems for residents. They say the pools of raw sewage in the streets are causing serious waterborne diseases, particularly among children.

Ntai Mokhitli, spokesperson for the department of co-operative governance, traditional affairs and human settlements, says: “Lawyers have been ­instructed to identify guilty officials and to take appropriate steps as recommended by the KPMG report.”

Mokhitli says action taken includes the dismissal of the municipal manager David Shongwe and director of technical services Sydwell Nxumalo.

He says arrangements have been made for Mashiya to repay the council funds that were spent on booze.

But back in the streets of Monyakeng, residents continue to battle with burst sewers and bucket toilets.

Moipone Mashia of Phola section says since the bucket eradication project was abandoned, drinking water from her tap is sometimes contaminated with sand.

In the mornings she finds that water ­contaminated with sewage has moved up the plumbing and into her bath.

Right in front of her home in Mangojane Street, raw sewage spills from a blocked manhole, forming mini rivers of stinking water down the street.

Semimi Mokgasane’s family has been using a bucket toilet since they arrived in Roma section in 1990.

For the past two weeks, she’s had to dig holes around her yard to dispose of the waste because council workers have not been collecting the buckets.

A council worker says this is because the tractor they use for their rounds is broken.

“The problem of overflowing sewage is receiving urgent attention from the provincial government,” says Mokhitli.

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