R18-million spent but Butterworth public pool has never opened

The swimming pool took ten years to build and was completed four years ago

By Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

21 February 2024

Photo of an empty public pool

Under construction for more than ten years and completed over four years ago, Butterworth swimming pool has never been opened to the public. Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

It took the provincial department for sport and recreation more than ten years to finish the construction of a public swimming pool in Butterworth, Eastern Cape. But four years after finishing the project, at a cost of R18-million, the pool has never been opened.

First, Mlonyeni Construction was appointed in 2008. But after the company had been paid R7-million, the contract was terminated in March 2012 due to poor performance. We reported on this in 2016.

Then Delevex CC 320 was hired to complete the project for R11-million, which it did in 2019, according to the department spokesperson Andile Nduna.

In 2021, Pumelele Godongwana, spokesperson for the provincial treasury, confirmed the treasury was investigating allegations of inflated costs during the decade-long construction. He has not replied to our latest questions.

The pool was then handed over in April 2019 to the Mnquma Local Municipality, which is now responsible for its operation. There is a large pool, two childrens’ pools, four big water tanks, five sitting areas and braai facilities. But none of this is open to the public.

The fence is broken and the facility is beginning to be vandalised. At least one break-in has been confirmed.

According to the memorandum of understanding between the department and the municipality, the pool will host provincial and national swimming trials.

There are a number of bed and breakfast establishments in the area, and residents and informal traders had hoped the pool would attract customers.

Municipal spokesperson Loyiso Mpalantshana said the pool will be filled with water from a borehole, but it still needs to be connected.

He said guards have been hired to look after the pool around the clock, but on our two visits there was no security guard present.

Mpalantshana said municipal manager Silumko Mahlasela had issued a directive to community service officials to carry out a full inspection of the facility, assess structural defects and damages, and compile a cost estimate.

Butterworth residents have waited so far in vain for well over a decade, hoping to use this public pool and its facilities.