Port Elizabeth - The Department of Water and Sanitation will be paying private contractors R10 million for humanitarian work already carried out by Gift of the Givers in water scarce Makhanda in the Eastern Cape.
This is according to Dr Imtiaz Sooliman, who said in a statement on Thursday that the organisation could, on a matter of principle, not continue with its relief efforts and would be leaving the town, along with the Jojo tanks and filtration systems they brought in to relieve the municipality’s water crisis.
"This is R10 million of taxpayers money handed out freely by the government to people as remuneration for work that Gift of the Givers did. Our hearts are with the people of Makhanda, the elderly, the women and children and everyone who waited so patiently for water but as a matter of principle we cannot continue."
Earlier in February, the organisation brought in a specialist hydrologist who struck liquid gold when he found drinking water at his first drilling attempt into a rock formation.
It was expected to produce 20 000 litres of pure drinking water per day as a "very conservative estimate".
The organisation arrived at the municipality at a critical time. The drought had left dams on the west critically low and some residents had been without water in their taps for weeks.
Gift of the Givers on a daily basis delivered clean drinking water to local and rural communities, tested the water quality of the boreholes, and installed Jojo tanks in communal areas.
Sooliman said that when they arrived the organisation drew up a rescue plan and commenced the process of "saving the city" immediately.
"We advised the municipality that the cost to solve the problem will be in the region of R23 million and that this will require government funding. They said the area has been declared a disaster in the government gazette and they will receive emergency funding with which they will remunerate Gift of the Givers."
Sooliman said the metro was honest in that they were not certain as to how much and when they would receive the funding.
"We said it's fine, their word was good enough for us. We were told that at a council meeting in March it was a unanimous decision that Gift of the Givers will be funded the moment the funds arrive.
"We successfully drilled 15 boreholes, tested the water, which is a huge cost, brought in special filtration systems designed by us, delivered bottled water, water by truck and did everything possible to assist the community as that was the priority. In all this time we had not received a single cent from any government institution. The costs were rising daily. Thus far the intervention has cost us R15 million."
Sooliman said the department started engaging with the organisation and, without exaggeration, more than 50 hours of meetings have been held over 13 weeks.
"But the best came from DSW on Freedom Day, when President Cyril Ramaphosa, was addressing the nation. They told us to move our trucks as there is no water crisis in Makhanda. Ironically, the president mentioned in his speech that there can be no freedom if there is no water in Makhanda."
"This week we received the most incredible feedback from DWS. They said only companies from Grahamstown can be paid for the drought intervention so accordingly, a private consultancy will be paid R1.2 million for work related to boreholes (we did the consultancy work, drew up a plan to save the city and sited the boreholes), another company will be paid R7 million for boreholes (which we drilled) and a third company will be paid R1.9 million for electrical work to connect boreholes which we drilled at Waainek (and which we have not be compensated for) to the treatment plant," said Sooliman.
The water department did not immediately respond to calls for comment.
African News Agency/ANA