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Much-needed R7.4m water project in Zululand stalls amid finger-pointing between contractor and others

Burst pipes and illegal connections are costing the eThekwini municipality millions of rands each year. Picture: Facebook

Burst pipes and illegal connections are costing the eThekwini municipality millions of rands each year. Picture: Facebook

Published Feb 1, 2023


Durban - A much-needed R7.4 million rural water project by the IFP-run Zululand District Municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal is facing an imminent collapse after subcontractors pulled out when they allegedly faced challenges of not being paid on time for services rendered.

The project called Smashwini water supply scheme augmentation has been delayed to an extent that an engineering consulting firm has recommended to the district municipality to terminate the contract and pay the failing contractor, Mzansi Drilling at least R4.1m for the work it has already done.

A batch of documents seen by IOL shows that the company failed to proceed with the work timeously and consistently failed to achieve construction targets and time-related milestones.

“The contractor committed to have completed excavations and pipe laying activities on the Smashwini project by the 15th of December 2022.

“This commitment was made during a virtual meeting held on the 26th of September 2022 between Paradox Young & Associates and Mzansi Drilling.

“The latest site visit was conducted by Paradox Young & Associates on the 10th of January 2023, and it was confirmed that excavations and pipe laying progress is still below the 50% mark.

“Mzansi Drilling JV PZL Projects is also supposed to have finished the construction of the steel reservoir concrete platform in preparation of the steel tank installation by Abeco (Pty) Ltd.

"During the same site visit conducted by Paradox Young & Associates on the 10th of January 2022, it was confirmed that only site clearing, and earthworks were completed on the reservoir site.

“There is currently no plant, no skilled labour, and no construction activities in progress on site because the appointed sub-contractor has not been able to resume working due to non-payment by Mzansi Drilling,” reads a report which was submitted to Zululand district municipality by Paradox Young & Associates.

According to the documents, on 1 December 2022, there was a meeting between Mzansi, Paradox and officials from the district municipality.

Out of that meeting, it emerged that the company was having cash flow issues emanating from delays by the municipality in paying it.

“The contract manager emphasised that the contractor has cash flow issues which affect the progress of work.

“Contractor wrote the letter regards the payment issue as it is affecting the whole project,” reads the minutes.

It also emerged that while working on site, the contractor accidentally damaged a water pump which meant that an already existing borehole could not deliver water to communities.

“PN (Phalo Ndudzo from Mzansi Drilling) state that the TLB accidentally struck the existing pipe and electric cable whichleads to the damage of motor in the existing borehole, requesting for as-built drawing for existing services.

“PN respond saying the contractor has removed the pump with motor to check thecondition, the findings shows that pump also need to be fixed as it’s impossible toreplace motor on the old pump as it can cause the motor to work short term,recommended to put new motor with new pump.

“PN emphasised saying the motor damaged only affected one borehole at Smashwini,” read the official minutes about the progress of the project.

Mzansi Drilling CEO, Samkelo Mlambo said the challenges they faced were due to non-payment and he was not aware that there is a recommendation that their services should be terminated,

“The tender awarded to our company by Zululand District Municipality (ZDM) as referred was issued to Mzansi Drilling on the 14th of December 2021 (The contract is ZDM 072/2021 for Siting, Drilling, Testing and Equipping of Boreholes as the scope of work)

“Contractual obligations such as Performance Bond and Performance Guarantees were obtained in January 2022 and Mzansi Drilling was ready to carry out the project by then.

“However, project only commenced in April 2022, wherefore the client ZDM delayed in providing us with vital details such as technical drawings as well conducting site handovers which delayed project commencement,” Mlambo responded to IOL.

He alleged that the district changed the scope of the project, when they had already invested money and bought material.

‘The client delayed in making payments as per our contractual agreement and this made it difficult to carry out our duties. Mzansi Drilling utilised its own resources (by way of purchasing materials, pipes and earthmoving equipment to a point were it became unsustainable to continue. This compounded by initial challenges highlighted above.

“These payments you refer to pertaining to the affected Rudimentary Scheme were only made on the 15th of December 2022  and with the advent of the December holidays we have had to start regrouping this year from the 16th of January 2023 when we opened,” Mlambo added.

Repeated requests for comment from the district municipality were not attended to despite promises to do so.

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