Makana suspends official over “irregular” water pump payment

This comes as Makhanda battles crippling water crisis

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Makhanda residents collect water from a tanker brought by humanitarian aid organisation, Gift of the Givers as the town faces a water crisis. Archive photo: Lucas Nowicki

  • Makana municipality has suspended its Director of Engineering and Infrastructural Services, Asanda Gidana.
  • Gidana is being investigated for several allegations of misconduct. This includes R2.9-million that was paid for a water pump for the Howiesons Poort Dam station, which was never delivered.
  • This comes as Makhanda battles a crippling water crisis.

Makhanda is battling a crippling water crisis, with many residents dependent on relief organisations like Gift of the Givers to tanker in much-needed water.

In May, hundreds of students and residents marched to the City Hall to show their dissatisfaction with the crisis as well as the municipality’s failure to find a permanent solution to the problem. At the time, the municipality had told the public that one of the major setbacks to their water woes was an unresolved blockage at Howiesons Poort, one of the major dams.

Then, on 21 and 22 June, the Makana municipality revealed that it had suspended its Director of Engineering and Infrastructural Services, Asanda Gidana. This follows allegations of misconduct against Gidana, one of which includes that R2.9-million was paid for a water pump for the Howiesons Poort Dam station, which was never delivered.

Municipal manager Phumelelo Kate is currently acting in Gidana’s post pending the outcome of investigations.

According to the municipality, Gidana had allegedly approved the payment to the service provider, Manco Business Enterprise, in July 2022 after it was awarded the tender in June the same year. The company was meant to deliver and install the pump in February 2023.

In a statement on 22 June, municipal spokesperson Anele Mjekula said, “There is an ongoing investigation to test the allegations. Thereafter Council will make a decision on what course of action to take. In the meantime, she has been suspended for a period of not more than three months.”

On 3 May 2023, Mayor Kate wrote to Gidana indicating that the payment for the pump before it had been delivered would likely be found to be irregular, fruitless and wasteful expenditure.

Gidana responded to Kate on 15 May, saying that the prepayment was done as part of a service-level agreement between Manco and the municipality. “The municipality never signed the agreement, but the prepayment was made nevertheless at the request of Manco. This payment was motivated by a meeting on 11 July 2022 between Manco and the municipality. Manco had been awarded two projects in the past. There has not been any poor performance before that warranted termination or reporting for blacklisting,” said Gidana in the letter to Kate.

Gidana recommended that the funds paid to Manco Business Enterprise be recovered through a legal process.

DA caucus leader in Makana municipality, Luvuyo Sizani, accused the ANC of protecting Mayor Yandiswa Vara while the people of Makhanda suffer due to a debilitating water crisis and service delivery collapse.

He said the extended water crisis is crippling Makana, but the mayor has been silent on the issue. “She has not communicated any message of assurance to the community or given residents any confidence that the crisis would be dealt with effectively,” said Sizani.

He said he has referred the matter of removing Vara to the DA’s provincial Shadow MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (COGTA), Vicky Knoetze. He said there are more than 2,500 residents who have signed a petition supporting the DA’s motion of no confidence in Mayor Vara.

Makana Residents’ Association member Sally Price-Smith told GroundUp, “The director must be held fully accountable, but there are others who can also be held accountable. The current and previous municipal managers as well as council members who fiddled while Makana dried out should also be held accountable.”

She said the Residents’ Association, in 2022, revealed that there were missing pumps from municipal pump stations. “It is such a struggle to provide water from Howiesons Poort because two out of three pumps are missing. There should be two pumps working in rotation to prevent overloading, a spare in case of maintenance.

“The situation is even more severe because James Kleynhans Water Works has bays for four pumps, of which two are missing, and only one pump is working properly. The other keeps tripping,” she said.

TOPICS:  Water

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