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Interference in water project cited as causing delays
5 August 2016

SA 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 department.

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 project’s delay.

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 dam.

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.

Continued ...


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