Gift of the Givers conned

2019-05-17 13:19
Pietermaritzburg’s Dr Imtiaz Sooliman says the Gift of the Givers has received a lot of support over its funding impasse with the Makhanda Municipality for drought-relief efforts.

Pietermaritzburg’s Dr Imtiaz Sooliman says the Gift of the Givers has received a lot of support over its funding impasse with the Makhanda Municipality for drought-relief efforts. (Ian carbutt)

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Gift of the Givers says it has received support from the highest office in the land — the Presidency — to get its payment impasse sorted with the Makhanda (Grahamstown) Municipality for urgent water relief efforts.

The Pietermaritzburg-based humanitarian organisation pulled out from Makhanda on Thursday, alleging that private contractors based there will be paid by the municipality for work that Gift of the Givers had done, including consultancy work and borehole drilling.

Its director, Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, said his teams pulled out of Makhanda having not yet completed their relief efforts, saying they needed funds of between R23 million to R30 million to complete the job.

He added that they had already spent R15 million so far.

Both the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) and Makhanda Municipality, however, have washed their hands of the incident, with the DWS telling The Witness that payment arrangements are between the municipality and Gift of the Givers.

Makhanda, meanwhile, said it never promised the organisation any money.

Makhanda was declared a disaster area and has been extended emergency funding from the DWS.

Their Howiesonspoort Dam is at 29,3% and the Settlers Dam is at a critical level of 7,6%.

Sooliman alleged the DWS’s funding will be going to pay a private consultancy R1,2 million for work Gift of the Givers did for planning borehole drilling; another company would be paid R7 million for borehole drilling which the organisation did, and another will get R1,9 million for electrical work.

This despite Sooliman’s claim that Gift of the Givers was assured in a Makhanda municipal council meeting in March that they would be given funding. The organisation drilled 15 boreholes which are yet to be connected to the water system, with Sooliman saying that they could make Makhanda water secure in just 10 days, if given funding.

He claimed the organisation had more than 100 hours of meetings with the DWS and Makhanda to find a way forward, to no avail.

Sooliman said various political parties, the presidency and other organisations had relayed their support.

He said he was not upset at the payment breaking down, adding, “this kind of thing happens all the time in this business. What I’m really worried for is the people of Makhanda.”

DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said there was “misinformation” around the issue, saying that the department gave R22 million in relief funds to Makhanda, but deciding who receives payment is in the hands of the municipality. Makhanda’s municipal manager, Mopo Mene, did not respond to calls or SMSes from The Witness, but said on the Eusebius McKaiser show on 702 on Thursday that the municipality never promised money to Gift of the Givers. Mene said the municipality was given R12 million from the DWS.

He said Makhanda had already had a consultancy firm studying underground water before Gift of the Givers came in. He would not answer when pressed about whether the organisation will get any payment, but stressed that they were having “discussions” with Gift of the Givers about a way forward.

Meanwhile, people on the ground in Makhanda expressed disbelief and alarm at Gift of the Givers pulling out.

“People are outraged because they came in at a critical time and people can’t believe there is a problem that has made them leave,” Sue Maclennan, editor of Makhanda’s newspaper Grocott’s Mail, told The Witness.

She said there was some concern around the staging of the Arts Festival in late June and July, but there were plans in place.

“By all accounts the drought will be around for another three years,” Maclennan added.

Gift of the Givers recently deployed a large rescue mission to cyclone-ravaged Mozambique in an attempt to provide food, aid and healthcare.

Read more on:    makhanda  |  pietermaritzburg  |  gift of the givers

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