The protracted payment dispute between the national department of water and sanitation and Khato Civils, a construction and engineering company working on a bulk water project in Giyani, resulted in the death of a six-year-old over the weekend.
The boy, Nsuku Mhlongo of Homu village, was playing with friends when he fell into an open trench the company had left. His friends ran to get help, but when his parents arrived at the scene he was dead.
The trench was full of water after torrential rains in Limpopo. The spokesperson for the police in Limpopo, Colonel Moatshe Ngoepe, said the tragedy happened on Saturday and that police had opened an inquest docket.
Dubbed the Giyani Emergency Water Service, the project started in 2014, after five years of drought.
In October last year, Khato Civils tackled the department over unpaid invoices amounting to R44 million.
The following month, the company abandoned the project after still not being paid. Forum of Limpopo Entrepreneurs secretary Siviko Mabunda has advised the bereaved family to open a case of murder against the company.
“Khato was only interested in how much money they were making rather than the safety and wellbeing of our people. That is why the forum is going to fight to ensure that Khato Civils has its day in court.
“We will accompany the family to the police station to open a case of murder,” he added.
Responding to the forum’s claims, Khato Civils said their preliminary investigation found that measures were put in place in line with the safety laws and regulations.
“The incident happened because there was interference with the measures put in place. Barricades put were around the trench to prevent people and animals from entering the site.
“This was because we moved off site due to non-payment and therefore there was no maintenance on the entire project during that time. But we are reaching out to the family of the deceased,” Khato CEO Mongezi Mnyani said.
Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the department was engaging with Lepelle Northern Water, which appointed the service provider, about the incident.
Lepelle is an implementing agent for the department in Limpopo.