More than 1,500 workers and 26 subcontractors are unemployed because the department of water and sanitation (DWS) has not honoured its payment obligations to service providers of the Presidential Giyani Bulk Water Project.
The company delivering the R3.5 billion water project in Limpopo has abandoned the project and moved its plant from Giyani to its head office just outside Midrand in Johannesburg.
The move comes after the department, under new minister Gugile Nkwinti, failed to pay Khato Civils outstanding money to the tune of R63 million.
The Citizen reported three months ago that Khato Civils was unable to buy diesel to move the plant after the department failed to cough up since March.
Khato Civils chief executive Mongezi Mnyani said yesterday: “Yes, we can confirm that we have retrenched workers at the Giyani project because the department is unable to pay us. We are currently at 96% complete. But we cannot do that if there is no money.
“We have pleaded with the department since the beginning of the year for payment. But it seems as if our pleas fell on deaf ears.”
During a visit to Giyani at the weekend, gates to the main camp were locked, with heavy security guarding the empty buildings.
In a letter seen by The Citizen from Khato Civils to Nkwinti, the firm claims the cost to complete the project between now and March next year would amount to R629 million.
Khato says it invoiced the department through its implementing agent, Lepelle Northern Water, for R89,227,549.86 on March 23, 2018 for the work that was done from February 2018.
“The invoice has been with the DWS for more than four months. On August 15, the department partly paid R25,897,537.35. We’ve now been waiting for the balance of R63,330,012.51 since then to date,” said Mnyani.
“Now, our plant can’t be moved because we cannot afford diesel. Our employees can’t be paid because there is no money, and our subcontractors are threatening to take us to court.”
Daniel Mokati, an employee of Khato Civils and a father of six who is supporting many other people, broke down at the news that he and other employees were to be retrenched last Wednesday.
“Christmas is just around the corner. My children and my family expect me to buy them goodies and clothes for Christmas,” he said, crying uncontrollably. “What am I going to do when I lose my job two months before Christmas?”
Another employee, Sewela Molewa, accused the department of not having the interests of the people at heart. She said Khato Civils was responsible for changing the lives of not only its employees, but Giyani residents.
A fortnight ago, Mopani District Municipality executive mayor Nkakareng Rakgoale said the project had become a platform for political parties to score cheap political points ahead of next year’s general election.
This after the EFF likened the ANC to a hungry pig that eats its young, while the DA said the water project had been used by then president Jacob Zuma and then water department minister Nomvula Mokonyane as a cash cow to bankroll the ANC election campaign in Limpopo.
The Giyani Water Emergency Intervention was initiated by Zuma in 2014 and commissioned by Mokonyane in August the same year.
It began with a budget of R502 million, but the scope of work ballooned the budget to more than R3.5 billion. The job was then expected to last for nine months but escalated to nearly three years.
DWS spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said there were plans under way to address the problem.
Lepelle chief executive Phineas Legodi was not available for comment.