The Giyani Business Forum wants Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu to appoint the Development Bank of South Africa (DBSA) to run the completion of the Giyani bulk water project in Limpopo.
Forum president Patrick Ritshuri said at the weekend it was time for the minister to make up his mind if completing the project was a priority.
“This is a project that has given Mchunu’s department a bad name. If Mchunu has the interest of the thirsty, poor community of Giyani at heart, then he knows what to do. He must just fire Lepelle Northern Water and appoint the DBSA to put the project to bed,” said Ritshuri.
“Lepelle has become a liability to President Cyril Ramaphosa’s administration. It has, over the years, depended on government to bail it out. This project started at the budget of R502 million and then it increased to R2.2 billion and now it is R3.4 billion. It was planned to be completed in three years, from August 2014 to August 2017. But it was later extended with two years to 2019.”
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Now, the project remained incomplete, another two years after the third postponement.
“All this should be proof that more money will still be embezzled. The people of Giyani will still be calling for clean running water,” he said.
“This utility has proven beyond any doubt that it does not have what it takes to deliver a project of such magnitude,” said Ritshuri.
Chair for the Forum of Limpopo Entrepreneurs Siviko Mabunda said: “Lepelle is now like a ghost trying to be resurrected. The utility is running without a chief executive officer.
“It is also running without a chief finance officer. It’s board of directors have also not been vetted. The people of Giyani will never have clean running water.”
During a stakeholder meeting, Mchunu said the damage caused by the utility was beyond renewal.
He said mentioning the name of Lepelle Northern Water or the Giyani water project in public was no longer an easy thing to do.
“Everywhere you mention this name, you know disaster is coming,” said Mchunu.
In response to the forum’s demands, the minister said the board of Lepelle Northern Water was appointed this year and approved by Cabinet in February on condition that each board member should be vetted.
“We need to give them a chance to run the utility. We will start judging them in February next year, after 12 months,” he said.
Last week, the National Prosecuting Authority (NPA) revealed that businessman Matome Sefalafala, former CEO of Lepelle Northern Water Phineus Legodi and former police officer Gideon Matlala appeared in the Polokwane Specialised Commercial Crime Court on charges of kidnapping, extortion and corruption.
Their appearance, said the NPA, follows an incident of 18 November 2020 when the acting CEO of Lepelle Northern Water was allegedly kidnapped by Matlala.
On 16 December 2020, Matlala was arrested in Gauteng and he appeared in the Polokwane Magistrates’ Court on kidnapping and extortion charges.
During the investigations, according to the NPA, it was revealed that Sefalafala and Legodi were behind the mission.
NPA spokesperson Mashudu Malabi-Dzhangi said the case was postponed to 21 January for a pretrial conference.