Giyani Water Project Contractors Make ‘Significant Progress’

A man walks past a fixed reservoir at Homu 14 B village in Giyani. After a decade-long delay attributed to poor performance and alleged tender irregularities, significant progress appears to have been made in the R4.1 billion Giyani Bulk Water Project.

AFTER a decade-long delay attributed to poor performance and alleged tender irregularities, contractors appear to have made significant progress towards the R4.1 billion Giyani Bulk Water Project.  

Residents say their water supply has improved since late last year, after the government made notable progress in installing water pipes and refurbishing the reservoirs.  

They told African Times that while water rationing remains, the new contractors appointed by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) have repaired leaking reservoirs and connected water pipes across 55 villages intended to benefit from the project. 

This came after the department replaced the previous contractors —LTE Consulting (consulting engineers) and Khathu Civils (the main contractor)— following a public outcry over the project delays linked to allegations of tender irregularities. 

According to the Special Investigating Unit (SIU), provincial water utility Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) escalated a R90 million emergency tender awarded in 2014 to R4.1 billion without following due process.

SIU head Adv Andy Mothibi told MPs in November last year that taxpayers received no value for money from the Giyani water project because most residents still had no water. He added that the unit had filed papers asking the Limpopo High Court to set aside the “unlawful” tender. 

Lepelle Northern Water awarded the contract to LTE Consulting and Khathu Civils 10 years ago, but the companies failed to complete the job, denying residents access to water for a decade. After visiting Giyani in 2021, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu said LTE Consulting, Khathu Civils and their subcontractors had been paid R3 billion despite completing 48% of the work. He announced a new recovery plan and promised to hold the previous contractors accountable.  

Daisy Mathebula (48), an unemployed mother of seven from Homu 14 B village in Giyani, says the water supply has increased in her area since November last year. Even though there is rationing, she now spends less on water than before.
Contractors connect water pipes in Giyani. Residents say while water rationing remains, the new contractors appointed by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) have repaired leaking reservoirs and connected water pipes across 55 villages (Photo: DWS)

African Times recently visited various areas in Giyani and spoke to locals about the progress made since then. Despite water rationing, they said the new contractors have made enough progress on construction. 

Daisy Mathebula (48), an unemployed mother of seven from Homu 14 B village in Giyani, said water supply has increased in her area since November. This saved her part of the monthly R400 she spends on water alone. 

“We still don’t get water daily, but our water supply has improved since November last year compared to the past few years. They have repaired the water pipes and fixed the reservoir next to us. They told us that we would get water daily once they were done refurbishing the [water treatment] plant. I hope they finish soon because water is expensive and I am unemployed. I survive on my child support grant,” Mathebula said. 

According to the Giyani water services project recovery plan seen by African Times, most local villages either already receive water or have had pipes connected. They are expected to get a regular water supply once the ongoing refurbishments of the Nsami Water Treatment Plant are completed. The villages include Muyexe, Homu, Ka-Siyandhani, Mavalani, Thomo, Mninginisi, Ngove, Nkomo, Mahlathi, and the Giyani CBD. They have been connected to pipelines  A, B, C1, D, F1, F2, and the Makosha branch. 

Wisani Mavasa, the national spokesperson of the Department of Water and Sanitation, attributed the Giyani water project progress to a strengthened oversight role, with regular monitoring meetings and progress reports ensuring timely solutions.

“Additionally, the appointment of 37 contractors to work on the reticulation project in 24 villages and the completion of the Nandoni-Nsami pipeline in April 2023 have significantly contributed. In January 2023, Mopani District Municipality (MDM), which is the implementing agent of the reticulation project, rolled out the appointment of 37 contractors to work in 24 villages out of 55 villages as Phase 1 of reticulation. Also, the completion of the Nandoni to Nsami raw bulk water pipeline at the beginning of April 2023 brought a huge relief,” said Mavasa.

President Cyril Ramaphosa and Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu received a progress report during their visit to the Giyani Bulk Water Project in December 2022. Mchunu announced a project recovery plan in 2021, saying the previous contractors had been paid R3 billion despite completing 48% of the work. (Photo: (DSW).

Mavasa added: “Using its Water Services Infrastructure Grant, the department funded the last component of the Giyani Water project to increase water access from communal to yard connections and appointed Mopani DM (District Municipality), a Water Services Authority, as the Implementing Agent for Giyani 55 Villages Reticulation Phase 1 for the 24 villages and the refurbishment of the Giyani Water Treatment Works Phase 1 to optimize the plant from its functioning of 17 megalitres a day back to its original design capacity of 30 millilitres per day.” 

She said the department also appointed Lepelle Northern Water as the Implementing Agent for Giyani Water Services to ensure the construction of bulk infrastructure. It consists of 325-kilometer pipelines from the primary reservoir in Nsami to secondary reservoirs in the 55 villages utilizing the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant.

Asked about complaints from some Giyani residents about water rationing, Mavasa acknowledged that water was still in short supply in some parts of the town.  

“The department is aware that not all residents are receiving regular water supply for a number of reasons. Firstly, Giyani Water Treatment Works is being refurbished to optimize its production capacity back to the original design of 30 milliliters per day, which it was failing to meet. Secondly, the population growth and settlement patterns in the 55 Giyani villages have outstripped the projected growth, such that demand is above production.

“The Mopani DM as a WSA is in the process of applying for RBIG funding to increase the capacity of the Giyani Water Treatment Works by an additional 10 milliliters per day for the rapid sand filter plant. This project is Phase 2 of the Water Treatment Works, which is planned to start during the upcoming financial year. The project consists of upgrading the plant to 40 megaliters per day.”

“This means that until the augmentation of the current capacity is completed by having 10 milliliters per day in place, Mopani District will have to implement water conservation and water demand management. In addition, they will have to advise residents of the rotational water provision timetable to enable them to plan their livelihoods and to share what is available in an equitable manner,” Mavasa stressed.

While progress has been made, Mavasa said, bottlenecks persisted. These included tribal authority disputes, illegal mining activities disrupting project sites, worker and supplier payments delays, and misalignment between bulk and reticulation design principles.

The DWS has addressed the misalignment issue and is working to address other challenges, according to Mavasa.

The Nsami Water Treatment Plant is being refurbished to operate at full capacity as part of the Giyani Bulk Water Project. The plant currently pumps eight megalitres of water instead of 35. (Photo: DWS)

Local officials and water experts who spoke anonymously, because they were not authorized to speak to the media, confirmed that the new contractors had made notable progress. They added that the Nsami Water Treatment upgrades were the reason for the current water rationing.   

“The treatment plant that is being refurbished was supposed to produce 35 megalitres of water, but now we are moving at a pace of eight megalitres. So, considering the size of the communities that need to be given water, eight megalitres is not enough. Eight megalitres means that the systems in which the municipality currently is giving water, they rationalize the supply.”

“They pump, and for two days they supply this pipeline, another two days, they supply another pipeline, and so forth. Two contractors are currently doing reticulation, which means that every household will be getting water by the time they hand over the project,” said a water expert. 

Mopani District Municipality spokesperson Odas Ngobeni said the municipality has also made progress since it was roped into the Giyani water issue in 2022 to implement the water reticulation projects.

“This is work we are still busy with. The Minister of Water and Sanitation has established the multi-stakeholder task team, which is chaired by the Executive Mayor of Mopani District Municipality. The team comprises DWS, LNW, Greater Giyani Municipality, and representatives from civil society organizations, including business formations. It meets every month to receive progress reports and tackle any challenges arising during the implementation of the project. There is buy-in from everyone directly interested in the project,” said Ngobeni.

“We are not just ‘repairing’ pipes. The work revolves around water reticulation with metered yard connections in every household in the first 24 villages. The project is not yet complete. Therefore, [the] supply would not be 100% perfect, but it has improved significantly. Our short-term intervention is boreholes and water tankering in communities where it is necessary,” he added.



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