Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti. Picture: Dumisani Sibeko/African News Agency (ANA) Archives

Cape Town - The ANC has called on cash strapped Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti to prioritise the department’s incomplete 2014 water project following the death of a 6-year-old in Giyani.

Khato Civils, a construction and engineering company contracted to complete the project, downed tools in September last year following a payment spat with the department.

ANC acting spokesperson Dakota Legoete said: “The minister of water and sanitation must visit the family of the boy and explain the department’s progress on the project and how the matter is going to be resolved.

“We would like the department to hold an investigation and bring to book those responsible for leaving the construction site unsafe.

“It has become clear that this is a case of negligence, from either the department or the contractor.”

On Saturday, Nsuku Mhlongo from Homu village fell into an open trench left abandoned by the Giyani water project.

Khato Civils claimed that it downed tools because the department had failed to pay invoices amounting to R44million, and as a result the company had to retrench about 500 of its staff.

The Giyani water project was meant to supply 55 villages with clean drinking water.

In August 2018, after R2.2billion was spent on the project, it had a shortfall of R4.5bn for completion.

The project was initiated by former president Jacob Zuma in 2014. It was later commissioned by former minister Nomvula Mokonyane in August the same year.

The department in the past financial year had overspent its R14billion budget by R2bn under Mokonyane, who is now Communications Minister.

The department is reportedly owed R11bn by municipalities and water boards with the debt having risen by R1.3bn between April 1 2017 and January 31 this year.

Khato Civils spokesperson Neo Molefakgotla said the company had not returned to the construction site since last September.

He said the company would not work at the site until it was paid by the department.

“We have stopped all the work at the project because we still have not been paid.

“You probably have seen the story doing the rounds of the 6-year-old who drowned, that is the same project we are working on. Since September we pulled out of the project, and have not been back on site.

“They are saying that at this point in time they are going to prioritise the payment since a child has died. They are working behind the scenes to ensure that funds are available and for the project to continue,” said Molefakgotla.

During the ANC’s manifesto launch at the weekend, President Cyril Ramaphosa said the government would prioritise the completion of the project.

“I think of people in Giyani who are still waiting for water to flow through their taps; that we’ll do. This we’ll do as we grow the economy of our country,” said Ramaphosa.

Political Bureau