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Eastern Cape municipalities continue to pay millions to construction companies with track records of sub-standard or incomplete building projects. Thalami Civils has been at the centre of the fiasco, being responsible for projects in Enoch Mgijima, Sakhisizwe, Intsika Yethu and Mnquma municipalities in the province.

Another offender is Isivivana Construction. In 2014, it was awarded a tender of R200-million by Matatiele Local Municipality to build 1,500 houses. The company was paid R174-million and only built 1,000 houses which the Eastern Cape Department of Human Settlements (ECDHS) said did not meet the National Home Builder Registration Council’s standards. Residents in ward 1 and 3 of Matatiele have occupied these houses. In 2017, the construction company left the site, leaving unfinished houses in the village of Jabavu and others. The following year, the same construction company was still awarded more than R20-million to build a sports facility and community members are not happy with the work done so far. Currently, an amount of R22.8-million has been put into this project which, as Elitsha observed, has only produced good fencing and what looks like a tar road.

According to Matatiele Municipality, this is the first phase of the project and it’s already 86 percent complete. The municipal manager, Lizo Matiwane said the project is implemented in phases as the municipality does not have enough financial resources to construct a facility of such value in one financial year. He said the relevant legislation on municipal finance was followed and that an open tender was issued on 19 January 2018 for suppliers to submit bids.

The municipality then appointed Umpisi Consulting Engineers for an amount of R4,1-million to conduct a feasibility study, design the sports facility, manage administration and procurement, supervise construction and monitor the quality of work done on site, according to Matiwane. Isivivana Construction was appointed as a main contractor for more than R20,6-million.

Matiwane said the first phase of the Matatiele Sports Centre started in October 2018 and will be completed by the end of December 2021. But when Elitsha was in Matatiele the contractor was not on site.

Matatiele Sports Centre phase one has cost taxpayers more than R20-million. Photo supplied by Wonga Potwana

Matiwane said during phase one of the project the following work has been completed:

Site establishmentBulk excavationDisposal of spoil materialEmbankment filling to platform levelConstruction of selected layers of platformConstruction of storm water drainage systemConstruction of manholes, a sub-soil drainage system for both the football pitch and running trackConstruction of clear view fencing and gate for the siteConstruction of G5 sub-base layer for the football and running trackInstallation of kerbing around the football pitch and running trackConstruction of G2 base layer for the football and running track.

He said the priming and laying of asphalt along the running track is 70% complete and the supply of artificial turf for the football pitch by a specialist sub-contractor is awaited. The material has arrived in South Africa but delivery was delayed by Covid-19 restrictions and processes of dispatching the material from the harbour to Matatiele. “Once the material is dispatched from the harbour, the installation will take about four to six weeks to complete, marking the completion of phase one,” said Matiwane.

Phase two of the project will include the construction of change rooms, a combo court, grandstands, a guard house and flood lights. Matiwane said those disputing the facts are invited to visit the facility for further assessments and evaluation.

Elitsha interviewed Matatiele residents two weeks ago who are starting to question the amount used on this sportsfield. Resident Priscilla Enseu told this reporter that the contractor left the site months ago and that construction projects are typically unfinished in Matatiele. “If you go around this town, you will find water projects are left unfinished, housing projects in some villages and community halls are not finished. To us this is not new,” said Enseu. “There’s a road project here that started years ago, still it is not finished. The contractor sometimes leaves, then comes back again and no one informs us of what is happening. Not so long ago our municipality built a bridge with millions but the work was very poor. They keep on giving us this one excuse of earth work,” she said. Why Isivivana Construction continues to receive municipal contracts when it had left previous contracts unfulfilled, she could not say.

We interviewed about ten Matatiele residents who told us that they opted not to vote in the local government elections because they are not happy with the services they are getting from the municipality.

DA leader, Wonga Potwana is one of the residents who is disputing the amount used on this facility. He said on paper the local municipality has listed what the money was used for but there’s no work to show for it. Potwana said he has written a number of letters to the municipal manager and speaker demanding answers but they have not responded to him.

Human settlements department spokesperson, Yanga Funani said Isivivana left the site with the houses unfinished due to a variation that is pending approval. He said there are plans by the department to complete the housing project and in respect of the pending variation order. The Eastern Cape treasury, however, did not approve of the variation, which decision the ECDHS wants to appeal “so that the contractor can immediately return to site to finish the project”.

Tekokona sportsfield has rugby posts but there are no rugby players in the area. Photos by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik

Also in Eastern Cape, under the Mnquma Local Municipality, Thalami Civils was awarded a tender of R56-million to build Tekokona sportsfield in 2018. The facility has a netball court, soccer ground and rugby field and when Elitsha visited this site in Centane town just outside Butterworth, we found an unused rugby field, an unmarked soccer field and no grandstands. The boundary fence was also in need of urgent repair and the toilets were locked.

The rugby field has not ever been used because there are no rugby players in this village.

Centane resident, Mkhululi Nkcithakalo

This sportsfield has been handed over to residents and residents are already holding tournaments. Mkhululi Nkcithakalo said as Centane residents, they appreciate the sportsfield because it is the only one. “We cannot run away from the fact that these sport fields are built so that the officials can misuse funds to benefit themselves more than the community. Unfortunately, there’s nothing we can do about that. Looking at this stadium this can’t be R56-million, at least one- or two-million, not more than 10-million – this is a joke.

“They built us a rugby ground. I’m 46 years old now. I was born here; not a single day did I see a rugby club here or a player. We do not have rugby here. They should have used the money to build more soccer fields. Clearly they did not do a proper consultation, they were in a hurry to use the money,” he said.

By the time of publication, Mnquma Local Municipality had offered no comment on the matter.