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in water project cited as causing delays
5 August 2016
Water Affairs minister Nomvula Mokonyane has
allegedly insisted on new terms of reference for a
R26-billion Lesotho water project, raising concerns
about political interference and a further delay in
a scheme vital to Gauteng’s water security.
The Polihali dam, part of the Lesotho Highlands
Water Scheme, was originally scheduled for
completion in 2018 but has been repeatedly
postponed. It will now be completed in 2025,
according to South Africa’s water affairs
Senior department officials, who asked not to be
identified, said that the latest glitch is an
agreement between South African and Lesotho
governments that the main contractor chosen to
design and build the dam must share 20% of the
contract with a black empowerment partner.
The new requirement is said to have been strenuously
promoted by Mokonyane, whose alleged interference in
the tender process is seen as central to the
City Press last month reported allegations that
Mokonyane was pushing hard for LTE Consulting,
reportedly a significant ANC funder, to cash in on
the Polihali Dam project.
LTE is the subject of a probe by the Special
Investigating Unit, after President Jacob Zuma
issued a proclamation in April in connection with
water and sanitation contracts in Limpopo and
Gauteng, which the company allegedly landed without
going through a proper tender process.
The company had denied any wrongdoing. Mokonyane has
rejected the allegations and denied any improper
relationship between herself and LTE.
The minister told Radio 702 that the delays could be
blamed on Lesotho’s political turbulence and, she
suggested, the lack of a procurement policy that
promoted black interests.
“As a political principle, I cannot allow a
situation where there is no procurement that allows
inclusivity that promotes national interest of South
Africans and Basotho,” she told the station.
Departmental spokesman Mlimandlela Ndamase did not
reply to questions about whether the terms of
reference have changed and whether the new terms
only apply to the design and construction of the
City Press also reported that in a bid to hijack the
bilateral Lesotho Highlands Water Commission (LHWC),
Mokonyane and Lesotho politicians fired and replaced
officials seen as obstacles to their plans.
Charles Putsoane, Lesotho’s chief delegate to the
LHWC, was axed in April 2015, allegedly because of
incompetence and insubordination.
In October 2015 Mokonyane removed South Africa’s
chief delegate Dr Zodwa Dlamini – who has 10 years
of experience in water megaprojects – from the
project, offering no reasons for this.
She was replaced by Gauteng’s former MEC for
infrastructure development Bheki Nkosi, who served
under Mokonyane when she was Gauteng premier and
worked alongside her in ANC provincial structures.
Dlamini and Putsoane declined to comment when
contacted by amaBhungane.
The Public Protector is probing the issue and has
confirmed referring allegations of irregularities to
the Auditor-General for an audit.
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