/ 28 November 2020

Klipgat residents left high and dry

Vandalised Sewer Treatment Plant
Under the effluence: The sewage treatment plant serviced areas in what was then Bophuthatswana, and today falls under Tshwane metro, but it is now derelict. Photo: Andries Sibanyoni

For more than eight years the residents of Klipgat watched the Madibeng local municipality blow R180-million on water and sanitation infrastructure — which has since stood idle and useless. People still use pit toilets. 

Further north, the Brits water treatment plant and the wastewater treatment plants in the nearby townships of Letlhabile and Mothotlung, are in a state of severe disrepair, as members of the National Council of Provinces and the North West legislature discovered during a recent visit to the municipality. This has led to critical water shortages and environmental and health problems.

Some of the blame has been laid on the poor state of the Madibeng local municipality. China Dodovu, chair of the parliamentary select committee on cooperative governance, water and sanitation, said Madibeng needed a turnaround plan “as a matter of urgency”. 

Back in Klipgat, the delegation’s visit awoke the anger of the residents, who called on the MPs to ensure the municipal officials who signed off on the projects face consequences. 

Blame for the infrastructure failure has been laid on poor security and vandals, who have stripped the water system of pipes and meters. Others have blamed the poor quality of work by contractors and the use of inferior materials.

Dead in the water

One of the failed initiatives is a R30-million water project. Klipgat receives its water from Rand Water through the Odi Water Retail unit in Mabopane, which falls under the City of Tshwane metropolitan municipality. 

Madibeng appointed a water reticulation contractor to install new water pipes on top of the Odi pipes and connect the more than 4 000 households with metered water taps. To date, not a single drop of water has come out of the taps. 

According to municipal documents, the contractor completed the project in 2012, but could not connect it to the bulk water system because it belongs to a different water entity. 

Councillor Frans Masemola said this is all part of the municipality’s bigger plan. “This was phase one of water reticulation in Klipgat A; they are actually waiting to complete the entire area, which is divided into three sections, before they could join it to the new water bulk system.” 

The multimillion-rand infrastructure has remained dry for eight years, with pipes and water meters disappearing, rendering it useless. Sources in the municipality said that by the time all the phases are completed there will be nothing left to join from the first phase. 

One of the insiders said it would take years to connect Klipgat A, B and C because the process would require budget approvals and advertising and awarding tenders.

The contractor and the municipality are further implicated in the delays: municipality sources claimed it was also a result of poor workmanship and use of substandard materials. “We once tested the connections, and there were leaks all over the area,” an insider said. 

Masemola said the leaks allegations could not be solely put at the main contractor’s door because other smaller contractors could have damaged the pipes. 

But the project was not tested after it was completed years ago, according to municipal documents. 

The main contractor has been paid in full, including the 24.9% retention funds that covered a 12-month defect liability period, which is now long passed. 

At the time of going to print, the municipality’s spokesperson, Tumelo Tshabalala, had not responded to the Mail & Guardian’s questions about where the water for the new pipes would come from, or about how, when and where they would be installed.

Between a klip and a gat

The second project that raised the ire of Klipgat residents was the R150-million sanitation infrastructure, which kicked off with much fanfare during the 2014-2015 financial year when flushing toilets were built in people’s yards. 

Johanna Mahlangu, a pensioner living in the village, said she had been excited about the toilets project because she had been using a pit toilet since she moved to Klipgat in 1968. 

Six years later, she is still using the pit toilet. A flush toilet was built, but stands unused in her backyard. Just the sight of it is a source of frustration.  

The toilet, and others like it in Klipgat, can’t be used because there is nowhere for the sewage to go. The old sewage treatment plant nearby, which belongs to the Tshwane metro, is derelict. People have “removed” the fencing, windows and paving bricks. 

The plant once served the Mabopane and Ga-Rankuwa townships, and parts of the Winterveld area. These areas, including Klipgat, were part of the former Bophuthatswana homeland, but they were allocated to different municipalities after 1994. Mabopane, Ga-Rankuwa, and some parts of Winterveld are under Tshwane municipality whereas Klipgat is under Madibeng municipality. 

The municipality had not responded to questions by the time of publication.