A delegation from the National Council of Provinces (NCOP), the South African parliament’s lower house, has raised concerns after learning that a construction mafia has been holding water projects hostage in Mpumalanga, leaving community members with dry taps.
The NCOP delegates conducted an oversight visit to a water reclamation plant in the Nkangala District Municipality on September 13 as part of their Provincial Week activities as Mpumalanga permanent delegates in parliament.
They said Mandla Msibi, the provincial MEC of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) told them infrastructure vandalism and the construction Mafia were among the reasons behind water shortages.
The construction Mafia is a loose phrase which refers to a group of community members, business owners and, in some cases, thugs who demand protection fees or extort money from construction companies to allow service delivery projects to continue unhindered.
“The MEC for Cogta in the province, Mr. Mandla Msibi, told the delegation that while most municipalities were making strides in the provision of water and sanitation to communities, the biggest hindrances were aging water infrastructure as well as vandalism. Another concern that was a threat to the delivery of water services were mafias that hold projects hostage and demand 30 percent payment without doing any work,” said Mpumalanga Provincial Whip in the NCOP, Ethel Nkosi.
Nkosi met with the Mpumalanga Department of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, the Department of Public Works, Roads, and Transport, the South African National Road Agency (SANRAL), the Nkangala District Municipality, and the national Department of Water and Sanitation for an update on the state of municipal infrastructure, water and sanitation, and road upgrades in the province.
“This matter is receiving attention from the national government, and the relevant law enforcement agencies are responding to it. The NCOP delegation also heard that Mpumalanga municipalities owed water boards huge amounts of money in water debts, and some have no capacity to service the debts.
“Another contributing factor to the challenges of water supply was the growing population through migration as well as the effects of climate change. SANRAL reported about progress in the upgrade of the notorious Moloto Road, the R573, in the Thembisile Hani Local Municipality,” said Nkosi.
She added that the permanent delegate structure would closely monitor the province alongside national departments tasked with ensuring that services are delivered to the residents of Mpumalanga.
Provincial Week is one of the NCOP’s initiatives aimed at enhancing oversight over provincial and local governments through the direct engagement of communities on service delivery challenges.
“It also provides an opportunity for the NCOP and the provincial legislatures to jointly engage with citizens on challenges they experience, and provide an opportunity to receive reports from government departments and municipalities on progress made regarding service delivery,” Nkosi added.
However, on Wednesday, the NCOP only met with officials.
Msibi was not available for further elaboration on the construction mafia.