The Clanwilliam Dam Picture: Henk Kruger/African News Agency (ANA)
Plans to bolster the water capacity of the Clanwilliam Dam in the Cederberg announced last week herald a new dawn in the economic development and growth of the West Coast. The development is envisaged to create 4 480 jobs, 3 800 permanent and 680 temporary, during the construction phase.

Last Monday, Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti and Western Cape Premier Helen Zille launched the government project of raising the dam’s wall 13 metres to harvest more water for the people of the region.

The launch comes five months after Nkwinti’s pledge on the improvement project. The Clanwilliam Dam project has been delayed for a number of years, resulting in negative publicity for the Water and Sanitation department.

In March, the new minister told a meeting of the national, provincial and local government leaders during a visit to the Clanwilliam Dam that he intended to introduce new policies and a new work regime to ensure projects were undertaken on time to best benefit communities.

His philosophy is that members of the communities where government infrastructure projects are situated, should benefit in terms of jobs and businesses. Nkwinti’s strategy of working together with the provincial governments and the local governments is showing dividends and being felt in all provinces.

Water and sanitation projects that had been held back for years have now been reactivated and included in Nkwinti’s re-prioritised list that he submitted to Parliament during his budget policy speech. There was great jubilation and celebrations when the dam project was launched this past week in Clanwilliam town.

Zille likened the occasion to the biblical seven years of prosperity. She called on all and sundry to work hard to improve the economic situation of the area so when the province was hit by another drought, it would be prepared to withstand the adverse conditions.

She said advanced skills needed for future infrastructure projects needed to be identified so the national government and the provincial governments could plan accordingly with the educational institutions to provide the necessary training. “There should be a skills pipeline,” she told an enthusiastic gathering.

Zille believed that a raised Clanwilliam Dam would ensure water security, attract more businesses to the Western Cape and improve the agriculture production in the province. The Department of Water and Sanitation would this financial year spend R175million on the Clanwilliam Dam project. The dam project would be done in-house by the construction unit of the department in line with the policy directives of Nkwinti, whose stated mission was “to do more with less”.

Nkwinti had budgeted R300m. His vision is to cut costs and reduce the timespan for the completion of department infrastructure projects.

It was estimated the project would take four years to complete.

Business buffs have predicted that once complete, the project would have several business spin-offs, including tourism and small businesses, that would boost economic activities of the district.

Project manager Thabo Hloele said the launch was a realisation of work that had been going on for many years. He pointed out feasibility studies in 2007 showed the project was viable.

A call was made by Nkwinti and Zille for fairness and transparency during the recruitment process.

The project was meant to benefit all the people of the West Coast irrespective of political affiliation, they said. He disclosed that the disadvantaged would be trained by the Western Cape construction Seta so that they would not lose out in jobs. 

Department infrastructure projects would now be 51% State controlled and private investors would be allocated a 19% stake.

Mxotwa is a director and a spokesperson of the Water and Sanitation Ministry