Minister Nomvula Mokonyane’s performance in the Cape Town water crisis is breath-taking. With her track record, and the financial woes in her portfolio, she cannot remedy the situation.
She is no Ms Fixit. Quite the opposite in fact. And there’s a whiff of Zuma about her.
Less than a year ago, City Press reported that Mokonyane’s department of water and sanitation was broke – “R4.3 billion in the red”.
There were unpaid invoices of R1.7 billion, plus a R2.6 billion overdraft.
In addition, both the public protector and the Special Investigations Unit were probing major projects.
Mokonyane’s bungles include Phase II of the Lesotho Highlands Water Project, which is running at least two years late and R2 billion over budget.
She has also been prominent in the Umgeni Water debacle.
Does she sound like the answer to #DayZero? Nope.
For Mokonyane to announce that Umgeni Water will provide a desalination plant is beyond audacious. To corruption-watchers, Umgeni Water rings alarm bells.
Last year, Umgeni Water chief executive Cyril Gamede was suspended amid corruption allegations.
Another red flag at Umgeni Water is the influence of one of Jacob Zuma’s favourites, Dudu Myeni, the former SAA chair, now “special advisor” to the transport minister.
Myeni, despite an appalling track record in corporate governance, was last year appointed to chair a committee overseeing a merger of Umgeni Water with Mhlathuze Water.
Futuregrowth subsequently expressed concern over Umgeni Water because there was no permanent chief executive or board. A Dudu mess. Mokonyane too is a staunch Zuma support er.
On December 18, she predicted Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma would win the ANC leadership race. In the same month, she called Cyril Ramaphosa two-faced.
Mokonyane demonstrated her financial illiteracy when she said: “The rand can fall, we’ll just pick it up”.
Ironically, the currency has been lifted, not by her but by her political enemy, Ramaphosa.
It is unthinkable that Mokonyane, who presides over a dysfunctional department, could impose an Umgeni Water desalination contract on Cape Town. Yet that is what she has tried to do in a letter to the city.
This must violate the Public Finance Management Act, among others. The city has its own tender processes, which cannot simply be bypassed.
Note that Cape Town residents, not Mokonyane’s department, would be expected to pay for the plant.
The Organisation Undoing Tax Abuse (Outa) must be puzzled by Mokonyane’s Cape Town intervention.
Outa accuses her of jeopardising Gauteng water security amid “instances of serious maladministration” on the Lesotho Highlands Water Project.
So Mokonyane presides over incompetence, financial chaos, inordinate delays and question marks over the awarding of contracts.
This has become a familiar pattern in government departments and state-owned entities during the Zuma era.
(Think of Eskom and the SABC, for example). It’s not a reassuring platform for tackling a once-in-400-year drought.
For that task, competent leadership is required. Although politics has muddied the waters, there are enough capable leaders in the Cape to manage this crisis, without Zumaphiles. Roll on political climate change.
Woza #DayZero for Zuma’s crew.