Millions poured into Eastern Cape sportsground but it’s still unfinished

After seven years, the project is under investigation

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The “grandstands” at the Engcobo sportsground. Photos: Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

  • Construction of the Engcobo Sportsfield started in 2015 with a budget of R13.7-million.
  • The sportsground remains incomplete and exposed to vandals.
  • Work has been suspended while the project is being investigated.
  • A Parliament briefing report in 2022 said it is only 60% complete.

The people of Engcobo in the Eastern Cape have waited seven years for a decent sportsground, and they will probably have to wait years more before the local municipality delivers on its promises.

Construction of the Engcobo Sportsfield started in 2015.

In September 2022, a report by the national Department of Sports, Arts and Culture to Parliament’s portfolio committee stated that the initial budget for the project, from the municipal infrastructure grant, was R13.7-million. The report said that the project stopped at 60%. It mentioned “grandstand and change room design” errors.

When GroundUp visited the site, we found four flimsy metal stands, a guard room and a running track. The perimeter fencing had been vandalised and the grass was long. There were trees on the field. The basketball courts and the toilets were unfinished.

There is no security guard at night and only one guard during the day. She said the place gets vandalised while she is there but she can do nothing to stop it.

“You find me locking myself in this guard room,” she said.

“Sometimes I see a group of boys coming from the bush. They take what they like and disappear. I’m also at risk.”

Dr AB Xuma Local Municipality spokesperson Sivuyile Myeko said the project is suspended as it is currently under investigation due to substandard work and poor administration and monitoring of the project by the contractor.

Myeko dodged and ignored our questions about the name of the contractor or how much of the R13-million had been spent to date.

Myeko said the municipality is waiting for an internal investigation to be completed before it can pronounce on the future of the project.

“No one knows how long the investigation is going to take, meaning residents will not get the sportfield any time soon,” said EFF PR Councillor Nkosinathi Cetman.

Cetman said that at a council meeting in 2017, “if my memory serves me right “, they were told the contractor wanted an additional R3-million.

The contractor abandoned the site before the Covid pandemic, said Cetman.

“If you look at what is already built, it is way less than the amount spent on that project,” said Cetman.

He said they wanted the municipality to continue with the project while the investigation was underway “for the residents’ sake”.

The running track is one of the only things at the site recognisable as a sports facility.

“In previous years we used to protest and put this town on standstill, but nothing changes,” said resident Mkhululu Qongqo. “We keep on seeing unfinished projects. The sports field is not the only unfinished project here after millions have been spent.”

He said the town’s young people desperately wanted a sportsfield.

“If you could see the fields used by young people in the villages, you would cry. Some are playing on gravel, others in mountains where there are stones and big rocks. All of them are in bad condition,” Qongqo said.

He said projects are just “cash cows” for the connected. “They pump money, once they are done, they drop the project to start another one.”

The guard house where the guard locks herself in when vandals and thieves arrive.

TOPICS:  Local government Sport

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