In what was perceived by many people as an election gimmick, Water and Sanitation Minster Senzo Mchunu handed over a multimillion-rand water treatment plant to the drought stricken Sekhukhune region, three weeks before the local government elections and exactly one year over schedule.
The plant, with a budget of R100 million, was handed over to 156 communities in three local municipalities, Makhuduthamaga, Ephraim Mogale and Elias Motsoaledi in Groblersdal, Marble Hall and Jane Furse.
“Vandalism of water infrastructure has become a thorn in our flesh,” said the minister. “It is not only government’s responsibility to ensure that our infrastructure is safe, but we also need active citizenry.”
Mchunu also urged officials in all spheres of government to plan water infrastructure projects adequately to ensure they benefitted communities adjacent to them.
He maintained that it was a cardinal sin to have projects that benefitted far-flung communities and not communities at the doorstep of the projects.
“While we put in our bulk water infrastructure projects as constitutionally mandated, we need to start with reticulation that will ensure that as soon as the built water project is complete, water comes out of the taps.”
Mchunu said the refurbished plant has an increased capacity to produce 16 megalitres of water per day as opposed to the previous eight megalitres per day. In addition, Mchunu said there were plans to upgrade the plant to 32 megalitres per day. He added that the project had created employment for 57 workers.
Although many people expressed joy at the unveiling of the plant, his political foes begged to differ. The Bolsheviks Party of South Africa was the first to criticise the minister.
“Exactly this time around last year, the department promised to hand over the project. We are baffled that it was now handed over, three weeks before the elections instead of one year before.
“Their timing is raising more questions than answers,” said the party’s acting secretary, Seun Mogotji.
“The previous minister, Lindiwe Sisulu made a cash injection of R143 million for the drought relief water project in Moutse but two years later, the project is still stalled.
Former minister Nomvula Mokonyane commissioned a R502 million Giyani bulk water project in 2014 but seven years later, the budget has increased to R3.3 billion while residents compete for dirty water with wild animals.
“I have lost respect for the ANC,” said Mogotji.