Juju’s dodgy R27m bridges

2010-02-28 12:17

AT LEAST three of several multi-million-rand bridges and roads built by Julius Malema’s company in ­Limpopo were washed away within weeks of their completion.

Now affected communities are ­demanding that authorities force SGL Engineering Projects to repair the shoddily built projects or take ­legal steps to recoup money spent on them.

City Press this week visited several projects developed by SGL – a ­company in which Malema holds majority shares – in Thengwe ­village, Mutale municipality in the Vhembe district; Tzaneen and ­Modjadjiskloof in the Mopani ­district as well as Lebowakgomo township at the Lepelle-Nkumpi municipality in the Capricorn district.

Apart from what appears to be poor workmanship in some cases, a section of locals employed to work on the projects complained that they were not paid for their services.

Other communities accused local politicians and municipal officials of having ignored repeated concerns raised about SGL’s sub-standard work.

ANC and municipal officials told City Press that some of the municipalities, including Greater Letaba municipality and Mopani district municipality, had paid SGL upfront ­before work was started on the projects. However, both municipalities denied paying SGL upfront.

Greater Letaba ­­Municipa­lity
At Kgapane Township, about 120km east of Polokwane, only a portion of one of the two bridges constructed last year are still in place.

A bridge built at the township’s Meloding Section is effectively a hill of soil covered with pavement. It has no concrete layers.

Residents said heavy rains in January swept it away just a few weeks after it was finished.

A young mother who lives across the bridge, who asked to remain anonymous for fear of possible victimisation, said the bridge was built in a manner that made it impossible for cars to access her house.

“As you can see, cars cannot access my house because the trenches on the side of the bridge were not filled. It is just bad,” she said.

SGL was paid R27.9?million to build two bridges and a 14km stretch of street pavement.

Robert Mahashe (49), a commu­nity leader in Kgapane Township, said residents were not satisfied ­because almost all of the sub-contractors “abandoned their projects or did shoddy work”.

“Even the premier (Cassel Mathale) is aware of this problem. I wrote a letter to his office last year but received no reply. I raised the same concerns with the former mayor, Joshua Matlou, but he also did not reply,” Mahashe said.

Greater Letaba municipality mayor Godfrey Modjadji conceded that the bridge had collapsed, saying it “was affected by rain and we have since called them (SGL) back to repair it”.

Lepelle-Nkumpi ­Municipality

At Lebowakgomo Zone A, 60km south-east of Polokwane, one of the roads SGL built in 2008 was washed away by rain within days of completion, according to residents.

The 5km road is now riddled with potholes and part of it has been reduced to gravel.

SGL was paid R600?000 for the project and the municipality was forced to withhold R1.3?million of the R1.9?million payment “due to poor performance by the contractor”.

Resident Nelly Ramoshaba (60) said heavy rains damaged the road days after its completion and that the company must return to ­repair it.

“It is taxpayers’ money. We have been complaining about the road at every community meeting but nothing has been done,” she said.

Shimani Sethoga (25), an ANCYL member and local building contractor, said: “As ANCYL members we asked the local councillor why the road was recorded as quality and paid for but he told us to shut up.”

Mutale Municipality

A landfill site at Thengwe village in the Mutale municipality, about 250km north-east of Polokwane – which SGL was supposed to have completed on June 30 2007 – remains incomplete.

When City Press visited the site on Wednesday three men – Geoffrey Mabila (23), Thendo Ndou (21) and Emmanuel Singo (22) – were busy filling a trench. They were hired over the weekend by a local subcontractor to complete the abandoned project.

While the site has been fenced off with concrete walls and a security guard room nothing much has been done inside. The guard room’s windows and door have been vandalised. SGL was paid R490?000 for the project.

Kgomotso Racheku (25), one of the 16 locals employed by SGL for phase two of the Kgapane bridge and street paving projects, said the company still owed him more than R3?000.
He said he worked for the company for about 16 months until last year.

“We are disappointed but there is nothing we can do,” said Racheku.

“We have been complaining about this matter for a long time. We even reported it to the local councillors but nothing happened.”

A provincial legislature document shows that eight of the 35 municipalities in the province awarded contracts worth R140 million to SGL between 2007 and last year.

The municipalities denied paying SGL upfront, saying the company was paid “as and when an invoice is submitted in terms of the progress”.

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