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On the same day that Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane pleaded with South Africans to pray for rain to end the current drought, a news report in the City Press highlighted the sad state of water supply in the town of Giyani in Limpopo.

A tender that is reported to have cost taxpayers R170-million so far, has yielded nothing for the community, some of whom now have to buy water to stay alive. Our zero for this week, therefore, is the Mopani District Municipality, for failing its community by allowing the current crisis.

“A City Press investigation has revealed that…three companies – LTE Consulting, and construction companies Khato Civils and South Zambezi – were awarded a R502-million tender in September 2014 to improve the water supply to the entire Mopani District Municipality,” read the report.

“LTE ceded the contract to Khato Civils on October 10 – and three days later that company was paid R170-million.” The paper further quoted a source close to the deal who said LTE should never have won the contract because the company’s core business was consulting, not construction. As a result, over a year and a half later, residents scarcely have water coming out of their taps.

“…residents go for up to five days at a time without water and are forced to buy from neighbours fortunate enough to have boreholes.”

The week of 14 to 22 March marked National Water Week, with World Water Day falling on the 22nd. According to the department, five provinces – including Limpopo – have been declared the most drought affected areas in South Africa. “This drought has affected communities and sectors such as agriculture. A number of interventions including water tanks, borehole drilling and dam enhancements, amongst others, have been undertaken to ease the impact of drought,” read a statement from the water and sanitation department.

It aimed to use Water Week to remind the public about the importance of water conservation under the theme Water for people, water by people.

Irregular situation

Upon her appointment in May 2014, Mokonyane is reported to have revoked Mopani’s powers to act as a water services authority. She then directly appointed Polokwane-based, state-owned water utility Lepelle Northern Water to be the implementing agent for the entire R502-million project.

“Lepelle Northern Water then directly appointed LTE Consulting, based in Midrand, Johannesburg, as consulting engineers. In turn, LTE appointed construction firms Khato Civils and South Zambezi to do the actual work.”

The source further said before ceding the contract to Khato, LTE was both the consulting engineers and the construction company. “They were both referee and player at the same time. This is unheard of in our sector. It is highly irregular.”