Million dollar road to nowhere

2012-02-25 17:15

President Jacob Zuma’s promises of infrastructure development in

the North West may come to nothing as the provincial department ­responsible for

it is in a shambles.

The department of public works, roads and transport has been

without a leader for four months after Premier Thandi Modise put MEC Mahlakeng

Mahlakeng on “extended leave” under mysterious circumstances.

Shortly after

that, Modise suspended acting department head Sandile Mbanjwa, followed in

­November by chief financial ­officer Leeto Dintwe, chief ­director for roads

infrastructure ­Thembeni Mthembu and supply chain management director ­Samenyana


Zuma included the North West in the list of provinces to benefit

from government’s infrastructure programmes, which includes the construction of

10 new roads. However, the province has yet to complete roads previously

identified as priorities.

Modise’s mass suspensions followed a disputed R93.5

million road repair tender. She also suspended work on a 50km stretch between

Lichtenburg and Koster.

Down Touch Investments had to halt construction after losing

­bidder Globul Roads complained that its bid was R18 million cheaper and it

should have won the ­tender.

A tender re-evaluation exercise by engineering firm Nyeleti found

25 irregularities with the awarding of that tender, Modise said.

But her spokesperson, Lesiba Kgwele, declined to elaborate on this.

None of the suspended ­officials has yet been given details of any charges

against them.

Kgwele said the disciplinary process was taking time as Modise

wanted presiding officers and ­employer representatives from ­outside the

provincial administration “to ensure objectivity and ­independence”. Charges

would be ­outlined at the hearing’s first ­sitting, he said.

According to their contract, suspending Down Touch is costing the

department R217 000 a day. Four months later, Down Touch had submitted invoices

amounting to R16 million, said its chief ­executive, Johan Cronje.

Kgwele said continued payments to Down Touch were “fully


Although Mahlakeng insists that he is on sick leave, those with

intimate knowledge of his “extended leave” said he was removed ­because Modise

did not want him leading the investigation into the Koster road matter.

Education MEC Raymond Elisha is acting in Mahlakeng’s position.

“Mahlakeng has been fit for work since 7 October,” said one of his

­allies, who is a provincial politician. Modise offered him 14 days off ­after a

week in hospital.

More than four months later, she’s yet to allow him back

despite doctors ­declaring him fit. The ANC also discouraged him from attending

the state of the province address.

Modise says her administration is “fixing” the department and, in

the debate on her state of the province address, said she would not rule out

further suspensions.

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