North West farmers are up in arms against Ndhuna Civil Engineering Services, saying the controversial company has directed traffic onto private property without permission to avoid building a bypass for Khunotswana motorists as required by the law.
They say the company’s director, Oberon Matsuvuki and the North West Department of Public Works and Roads have failed to consult them about the matter and “arrogantly” dismissed their concerns.
According to Naude Pienaar, Agri North-West’s general manager and chairman of the Klippan Farmers Union, local farmers raised several concerns about Ndhuna’s use of their private land as an alternative road without consent.
He told African Times the farmers asked Agri North West to take up the matter with the department, which was equally arrogant and dismissive of their concerns. Pienaar said Matsuvuki and the department’s officials claimed the road under construction was too narrow to accommodate a bypass but refused to share Ndhuna’s approved construction scope.
The resumption of the R134 million road project flies in the face of North West Public Works and Roads MEC Saliva Molapisi’s previous claims that he had instructed Moss Kgantsi, the head of the department, to cancel the tender. The Special Investigating Unit (SIU) is probing the contract, marred by allegations of fraud and corruption.
Pictures taken by local farmers, including CCTV footage, show a construction truck dumping water on a narrow road between farms to mitigate against the dust.
Pienaar said farmers, the community and taxi associations have all raised concerns about Ndhuna’s failure to build a proper bypass. He said that the decision to use the private road has increased traffic in the area, caused security issues, and added 35 kilometres to the distance between Khunotswana and Zeerust.
“The difficulty is that this contractor [Matsuvuki] did not build a bypass. He decided to divert the traffic onto a private road, and that is unacceptable. We had meetings with the contractor; we had meetings with the community because the landowners threatened to close this private road because there is a lot of traffic on this road, and it was not built for a lot of traffic. It is very narrow, and is actually for bicycles and donkey carts,” said Piennar.
Moreover, he said, local taxi associations complained to Agri North West that using the private road as a bypass impacted them financially.
“They are forced to drive an additional 30 to 40 kilometres to Zeerust, making it very difficult and expensive for them and their customers. So, it’s three different groups that are against the use of this road as a bypass,” he maintained.
Pienaar said separate meetings between Agri North West, the department and Ndhuna about the matter also failed to bear fruit. He said the provincial public works and roads department was not cooperating with aggrieved farmers and even cancelled the latest meeting, scheduled for Tuesday, citing other commitments.
Pienaar said the farmers wanted to use the meeting to offer the department and Ndhuna a four-month grace period to use the private road while the contractor built a bypass.
Asked whether local farmers had any idea why Ndhuna unilaterally opted to use their private road rather than build a bypass as required by the law, Pienaar replied:
“If I can use somebody else’s bypass and I don’t have to build, then I am going to make a lot of money. That is my belief; that is what is happening here.”
He added: “They have got their excuse saying the road reserve is too narrow for them to build a bypass. They say it’s a very wide, nine to 12-metre-wide road. My counter-argument is, why do you build such a big road if there is no road reserve, because the law is very specific? You must have a specific wide road reserve. So the planning from the outset was wrong.”
Pienaar stressed that he “did not believe the excuse the contractor is trying to give us”.
“Remember, there was no public participation. They never discussed it with us. They just arrogantly diverted this traffic onto a private road even after I discussed it with him [Matsuvuki] and the department making sure that the department is aware this is a private road.
“They just keep on diverting traffic onto this private road. They have even put up signs now next to the tar road indicating this specific road as being the bypass,” the Agri North-West chief said.
Pienaar said the way forward for local farmers was to “force the contractor and the department to comply with the legislation”.
“The legislation is very clear that if a road like this is being built, bypasses must be constructed for the users while constructing the road. That is very, very clear. It should be contained in the scope of work. They are refusing to give us the scope of work, and I think there is a good reason for that as well,” he stressed.
The North West Department of Public Works and Roads did not respond to a request for comment.
Spokesperson Matshube Mfoloe referred enquiries to the Office of the MEC, citing “an internal arrangement” for Molapisi’s office to handle all media enquiries about Nduna and Nelson Mandela Drive project in Mahikeng.
“This arrangement- comments about Nduna Civil Engineering- was informed by the decision to order an internal forensic investigation – as announced by the HoD – into the appointment of Nduna Civil Engineering as a winning bidder for the Khunotswana road upgrade project, which is also the subject of an investigation by the SIU,” Mfoloe said.
Molapisi’s spokesperson, Lerato Gambu, did not respond to questions sent on Friday last week.
He also ignored follow-up calls and WhatsApp messages. The questions included how far the forensic report was, who conducted it and what happened to Molapisi’s instruction to terminate Ndhuna’s contract.
Matsuvuki failed to respond to repeated calls and messages.