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It took ActionSA a month to do what DA had not done in three years

ActionSA’s Hannes Coetzee with party leader Herman Mashaba. Picture: Supplied

ActionSA’s Hannes Coetzee with party leader Herman Mashaba. Picture: Supplied

Published May 5, 2022


Aldmerman Hannes Coetzee

Pretoria - It is November 2020. As the ward councillor of ward 96 in Pretoria, I am engaging newly elected mayor Randall Williams – Pretoria’s third DA mayor in four years after a period under provincial administration.

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The matter at hand is the award of a contract for the upgrade of the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant.

The plant is critical. Its incapacity has been the origin of the pollution of the water system in surrounding communities since 2004, to the point that it is unsafe for human or animal consumption. It is a human rights disaster that has continued since 2004.

Property prices have fallen because of the smell of raw sewage, farmers have had to change to less profitable crops and people are getting sick. With over 40% of the City’s wastewater flowing through this facility, new developments will have to be declined for a lack of sewage treatment capacity.

I explain to mayor Williams that the two companies in the joint venture were owned by notorious state capture-implicated Edwin Sodi. That the companies were not registered as suppliers in the City’s database. That they had no experience in this kind of work and do not even have the finances to establish the site, or for the initial capital outlay.

I explain that the City had to provide R71 million up front for the operation of this joint venture, against its own policies and supply chain practices. That when the bid adjudication committee cancelled the award of the contract, Sodi’s joint venture took the City to court, rather than defend its own decision of the head of department to cancel this contract because of how patently problematic it was.

What did Williams do with this information? He gave me platitudes and directed me from pillar to post. Rather than dealing with this issue in the government, where it needed to be dealt with, it was escalated through the DA structures to Helen Zille and John Steenhuisen.

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I finally resigned in January 2022. I could no longer represent my residents in good conscience under the banner of a party that treated them with disdain and expected my unconditional loyalty. I resolved to retire from politics with a disappointing taste to an 11-year stint as councillor of ward 96.

My decision to join ActionSA came two months later when I realised that the solution lay not in walking away from community service, but identifying a vehicle that served communities and not politicians. Already it is proving to be the right decision.

Within a month an ActionSA-sponsored motion was on the floor of council calling for an immediate independent forensic investigation into the award of this contract to be concluded and reported to the council within 90 days. It took ActionSA one month, with one piece of paper, to do what the DA had not done in three years.

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The cost of this achievement was three years of fighting for this investigation, my resignation from the DA, and the loss of my council seat for this issue to be taken seriously. It was worth every bit of hardship because I can look my residents in the eye and know that their interests are being fought for without compromise or qualification.

The residents of my ward and surrounding communities deserve to know the truth about what has happened with this plant. They should know why R259m was given to Sodi’s joint venture, why the City did not act in their best interests and why the day of clean drinking water seems not to be getting any closer.

To make my case, I share an anecdote from the recent 2021 local government elections. When our campaign posters bearing the slogan “The DA Gets Things Done” were going up on the poles, a resident of my ward walked past me and said: “Ja Hannes, but these things don’t get done here.”

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It stuck with me because it summed up my experience.

The only thing worse than what the DA has done to my residents since 2016 is their presumption that they are owed the votes of this community.

I believe they are in for a surprise on May 4.

* Coetzee is the ActionSA Candidate for ward 96, Pretoria