We would return to Makana, says Gift of the Givers about water crisis

Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman
Dr. Imtiaz Sooliman

The Gift of the Givers founder says given the opportunity, they would return to the Makana community to help restore full water services, despite a financial impasse with government. 

"We would definitely go back. We know what we did for the people and we know we can do the job. To put it bluntly, we have been wasting time the last few weeks because we have been delivering water in water tankers when we have an ideal solution," Imtiaz Sooliman told News24 on Thursday. 

He said they had hired a specialist hydrologist and would be able to pump four million litres of water per day to the area's dam.

Residents has been dealing with a serious water shortage in recent months. Gift of the Givers provided relief in the area for 13 weeks.  

"Why should we deliver the water tankers? It's a waste of time. [Government] haven't made the money available and we don't have any more funds after already spending R15m. Of course, now they want to give R10m to someone else for our work."

Sooliman said they could get water to the community in 10 days if funds were made available. 

"We gave them a blueprint to pump water into their dam. We made a plan for the entire water issue. But, we said we cannot pay for the whole thing. [The municipality] said they don't have money and would ask government to declare this a disaster." 

Sooliman said he had already received calls from the Office of the President and other high-ranking officials. 

"I was told that the matter is now getting urgent attention."

They did so of their own accord 

In a statement, the municipality said Gift of the Givers began implementing longer term solutions by drilling boreholes at key sites around the city.

"They are quite correct to say that they did so of their own accord and no guarantees were given by Makana Municipality about reimbursement or funding."

They were awaiting clarity from the Department of Water and Sanitation around the status for an appeal for drought relief. 

"We were unsure in what form and to what extent such relief might come. We played open cards with Gift of the Givers and all parties went into the project with their eyes wide open – the priority was providing relief to the residents of Makana."

The municipality said that in October 2018 the department informed them they would assist drought relief efforts by funding the drilling of boreholes. They then followed due process and appointed a consultant as a first step. 

"The consultant will complete an underground water study and register the boreholes already drilled. The tender was awarded following a proper and lawful tender process, to undertake the necessary environmental impact studies and assessment of the aquifer to determine the viability, scale and scope of drilling boreholes."

Sooliman said he was aware the municipality had appointed a contractor. 

"They told us about all that. This is not the same thing. This falls under emergency funding. All those things fall off."

The municipality was using a previously signed contract as their reason for not paying, he added.

'We hope that the current situation will be resolved'

The municipality said while it would continue to engage Gift of the Givers, they would allow the consultant the "space to fulfill their contractual obligations to the City".

"We hope that the current situation will be resolved in the best interests of the people of Makana, on whose behalf we act, and in a way that ensures that Gift of the Givers are compensated for their effort, expertise and care in our time of need."

Department spokesperson Sputnik Rantau said they had no jurisdiction over the agreement between the Makana Municipality and Gift of the Givers. 

"I do not know who promised who what. From our point of view, ours was to transfer the drought relief funding to the municipality to use for that function. As to who the municipality appoints under what conditions is something that the municipality would do under their own supply chain processes and guided by the Municipal Finance Act. We don't get anywhere near that," Ratau said.

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