R3 billion Giyani water project in limbo
Pretoria - In 2014, 68-year-old Tiyiselani Mathebula ululated with jubilation and even slaughtered one of her chickens to celebrate the launch of the Giyani water project that would bring years of water shortages to an end.
However, Mathebula’s celebrations were in vain as seven years later the announcement – by then president Jacob Zuma, flanked by the then water and sanitation minister Nomvula Mokonyane, that 55 villages in and around Giyani in Limpopo would finally be able to drink clean water from their own taps – was never realised.
Mathebula, from Muraga village near Thohoyandou, has never, for years, accessed clean drinking water – despite her close proximity to the Nandoni dam that supplies many other far-flung areas with the same water.
Instead, the mother of four used to carry buckets to get water from the crocodile-infested dam for drinking and basic house needs.
Mathebula said: “When they came here to start with the construction of the pipes, I remember we had a feeling of pride and happiness for the fact that I wouldn’t have to risk my life and the lives of my children by visiting the dam every morning to get water for drinking and basic house needs, like cleaning and bathing. Even before drinking the water, we needed to make a fire to boil it first.”
Mathebula, who used to work as a fish trader at a market, says there are some in her village who are lucky enough to have educated kids who have given up on the Giyani water project and have provided boreholes that cost about R20 000.
“Where would I get R20 000 from? I had to stop working 10 years ago because my knees could not take it anymore. I couldn’t afford to take my children to school and they, like me, do odd jobs around the village,” Mathebula said.
The Giyani bulk water project was meant to provide clean running water into taps of 55 villages in Giyani in Mopani district of Limpopo by building a 320km pipeline that would access water from the Nandoni dam to connect with the villages.
But in 2018, following claims of corruption in the R3 billion project, Zuma commissioned the Special investigating Unit (SIU) to investigate the project since its launch in 2014.
In June 2019, Lepelle Northern Water (LNW), Limpopo’s water utility, terminated its contract with LTE Consulting Engineers, which was contracted by LNW to work on the water project.
LTE sub-contracted Khatho Civils, which was meant to oversee the project, but had to stop its operations in 2019 after a boy fell into a trench that the contractor allegedly left open at Homu village near Giyani.
In the same year, Public Protector Busisiwe Mkhwebane found that LNW had handed the controversial water project to the contractor improperly and that the cost of the project had ballooned from R500 million to R3bn.
LNW acting spokesperson Yolande Nel did not respond to questions from the Pretoria News.
Seven years later, there are still more than 50 villages without access to clean drinking water.
Those who did get water running through their taps, like 55-year-old Jabulani Mthombeni, from Siyandani village near Giyani, complained that the water coming out of the tap was dirty
“My family and I can’t drink this water. It’s been three years since we have had the water but it comes out brown. Even the water at the dam is much better than this. We have no hope that this project will get done,” Mthombeni said.
Late in 2019, the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Minister Lindiwe Sisulu claimed in Parliament that the project had resumed and should be completed by March this year.
She said: “The Giyani water services project has resumed following the deployment of the water and sanitation construction north unit in 2019.”
DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau noted the Pretoria News’ questions but had not responded by the time of publication.
Mopani district Municipality spokesperson Odas Ngobeni said the municipality had provided water tankers to Giyani. He said: “We supply the communities in Giyani through the existing infrastructure. In areas where we don’t have bulk infrastructure, we have boreholes. But we also have water tankers which are co-ordinated by the local municipality through the guidance of ward councillors.”