Giyani water crisis not over, as state still owes contractor tens of millions

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The protracted payment feud between the department of water and sanitation (DWS) and Johannesburg engineering company Khato Civils has the potential to leave the 5.6 million Limpopo populace thirsty for months to come.

This comes after the company delivering the multibillion-rand bulk water supply in Giyani refused to go back on site to continue with the project.

This despite the fact the department paid Khato Civils R63 million on Wednesday, in an attempt to get them to go back and finish the project.

The Citizen has seen proof of payment and a media statement requesting Khato Civils to go back on site to complete the project.

The project was initiated in 2014 by former president Jacob Zuma, and commissioned by then DWS minister Nomvula Mokonyane in August of the same year. This was after DWS together with the Limpopo government declared the Mopani region a disaster area in 2009.

However, Khato Civils said yesterday it would take more than R64 million to get them back on site.

CEO Mongezi Mnyani said yesterday: “We can confirm that indeed we received payment to that amount from the department. But their R64 million is tantamount to a drop in the ocean compared to what the department still owes us.”

Mnyani said the R64 million was for the first invoice and that another amount of R44 million was still outstanding.

“There is still close to R150 million more, which both our engineers and the department are still quantifying.

“But we are currently waiting for the department to pay us the remaining invoice totalling R44 million. The department will not be doing us any favours, but that is my money. It is the money that I worked for.”

“When all the money is paid, we will still need to sit with the department and communicate around the table about the R629 million needed to complete the project,” he said from the company head office in Midrand.

Mnyani said Khato Civils could have completed the project ages ago had the department played ball.

“We have pleaded with the department on several occasions to pay invoices in time so that the thirsty community of Limpopo, and Giyani in particular, have clean running water on their doorstep.

“But that was not the case. Each time there is an invoice to pay, the department gives us the runaround.”

Mnyani accused DWS acting director-general Debora Mochotlhi of “snoring on the job”.

“Ever since she stepped in, we asked for a meeting with her countless times but she always gave us the cold shoulder.

“We wrote to her, she never responded and we called her but she never answered.”

In a media statement yesterday, Mochotlhi apologised to the people of Giyani, saying: “We regret the delay in the payment and hope Khato Civils would go back to site to complete the project now that payment has been made.”

Yesterday, the department referred all queries to state-owned utility Lepelle Northern Water, which is responsible for bulk water supply in Limpopo.

Simon Mpamonyane, spokesperson for Lepelle Northern Water, confirmed that more money was still owed to Khato Civils, but that their invoice hadn’t yet exceeded the 30-day payment deadline. “I think by failing to go back to work, Khato would be holding us and the department at ransom.”

alexm@citizen.co.za

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Source:citizen.co.za