Tenderpreneurs Circle Clanwilliam Dam Wall Project
Water and Sanitation Minister Gugile Nkwinti will need a “backbone of steel” to resist the pressure of tenderpreneurs circling the Clanwilliam Dam wall raising project.
This is according to Premier Helen Zille, who writes for the Daily Maverick today on the politics surrounding the re-launch event of the dam wall raising in the Cederberg last week.
Over 2000 people were bussed in for the launch, with catering and transport contracts for the event being awarded to the ANC’s Regional Treasurer, an ANC activist and beneficiaries of crayfish quotas.
At the event, ANC speakers stood up to demand contracts relating to the dam wall raising.
The dam wall raising – a project that was supposed to be fully complete by 21 May 2018 – has been relaunched prior to every election since 2014.
Raising the dam wall is a complex engineering effort, with the project expected to take between 4 – 5 years to complete.
The project was originally going to be undertaken by the Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) internal construction unit, Construction South. DWS staff, contract personnel and various equipment have been located in Clanwilliam since 2014, waiting for the project to start. This has cost the taxpayer an estimated R100 million to date.
The main reason for the delay was a surprise decision taken by former DWS Minister Nomvula Mokonyane to instead put the project out on tender, despite Construction South and equipment already having set up shop in Clanwilliam.
All the symptoms of destructive tenderpreneurism surrounded this potential contract – with attempts from within DWS to award the complex project to companies incapable of doing the job. The tender process eventually collapsed in late 2017 after the DWS announced that it had run out of money to undertake the dam wall raising, despite R2 billion being allocated to the project by National Treasury as far back as 2013/14.
The dam wall raising has been revived under new Minister Nkwinti, but is again at risk of predatory tenderpreneurs who were vocal at the highly-politicised relaunch.
Premier Zille says: “The minister will require a backbone of steel to remain resolute under the pressure he will face from his own ranks in the execution of this mammoth project. Minister Nkwinti will only survive in this post if President Cyril Ramaphosa backs him. And that will depend on the tensile strength of the President’s own spine. The big question for both of them is: can the ANC’s political leaders survive in office if they try to dismantle the patronage network that holds the party together?”
The lack of water storage capacity in Clanwilliam has had a major economic impact due to the drought. In some areas the impact has been so severe that farmers have totally abandoned their farms, with isolated cases of suicides reported. Due to lower than expected income, certain farms have already been repossessed. This, along with the shutdown of TygerFoods, due to not having any crops to process, led to 20 000 estimated job losses.
During her speaking opportunity at the event, Premier Zille welcomed the project, explaining how patronage systems are at the heart of the failed state in Africa. She said this could not be allowed in the Western Cape.
The Premier welcomed the fact that Minister Nkwinti had committed himself to appointing a multi-party committee to oversee the project, and to ensuring open and fair processes. She added that it was essential to separate a government event from a political rally.