Amathole villagers drink from the river while new contractor for water project appointed
Municipality takes over drinking water project meant to have been completed last year
- The Amathole District Municipality has hired a new contractor to complete work at the Ngqamakhwe water scheme project.
- The project, meant to provide clean running to 129 villages, was meant to be completed in 2022 but has had several delays.
- At least 90% of the work remains incomplete.
- Amathole and the Department of Water and Sanitation, which until about a month ago had its own workers at the site, were blaming each other for delays on the project.
- Meanwhile, many villages are forced to buy water or drink dirty river water, and will likely have to continue doing so for another two years or until the project is finished.
Thousands of households in 129 villages under the Amathole District Municipality, Eastern Cape, will be without running water for at least two more years.
This comes as the municipality has acknowledged the delays to the Ngqamakhwe water scheme and hired a new contractor to complete the project.
In 2020, the Department of Water and Sanitation allocated R230-million to Amathole over three years to mitigate the effects of the drought.
The Ngqamakhwe scheme is meant to supply water to the villages around Tsomo, Ngqamakhwe, Butterworth, and Engcobo by taking water from the Intsika Yethu Local Municipality (under the Chris Hani District).
The project started in February 2021 and the work was expected to be finished in March 2022. While work at the site started smoothly, there have been several delays, including a protest by workers over wages in August last year. At this stage, the department and Amathole were blaming each other for delays.
The municipality had said it wanted to bring in a private contractor because the Department of Water and Sanitation’s workers had only completed 10% of the work. The department had blamed the municipality for not releasing funds in time.
Now, less than a year later, the project is still far from finished.
Amathole District Municipality spokesperson Sisa Msiwa told GroundUp the delay was because the department’s contractor was fired due to non-performance.
Msiwa said a new procurement process was done and the site has officially been handed to the new contractor.
When GroundUp visited last week, there were only guards at the site entrance.
Resident Duma Bolana from Ngqamakhwe said the municipality had introduced the new company, Mpumelelo Construction, to them and promised work at the site would resume soon.
“We don’t know what is happening and we are not given any explanation. At the moment no work is happening,” he said
Bolana said people in his village have been without running water since 2015. He said they pay up to R1,500 to refill a 10,000-litre water tank. “The unfortunate part is that people can’t afford to buy water, and they are forced to get water from the very dirty water streams,” he said.
Sima Qwele, of the Tsomo Stakeholders Forum, said, “People are desperate for clean water. The department was using its own contractor in this project. The only delay then was that the working material did not arrive on time, but there was progress.”
“Residents and workers were not happy with the [municipality] because we knew it was going to delay the project, as it is happening now. Workers argued that if the municipality terminates the department’s contract, their payment rate will now decrease and some workers might lose their jobs,” said Qwele.
Phase one of the project consisted of the construction of a pump station, reservoirs and a pipeline from the Tsomo Water Treatment Works to Ngqamakhwe. Phase two will be a bulk water pipeline from Ngqamakhwe to a reservoir. The last phase will be the construction of another bulk water pipeline for the command reservoir to water treatment works in Butterworth.
The first phase is yet to be completed.
Mpumelelo Construction Director David Mokoena said they will start work on the site as soon as they get their labour permit. Mokoena said they expected the project to be completed within a year.
He said they will start hiring employees once they receive the work permit.
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