Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane
Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane refused to release a report containing details of the R4 billion Nandoni-Giyani water reticulation project. Photo: Supplied

The Public Protector, Advocate Busisiwe Mkhwebane, had on Friday, the 2nd of October, left residents of Limpopo and Giyani in suspense after she failed to release the report on the more than R4 billion Nandoni-Giyani water reticulation project implemented by the Mopani District Municipality (MDM) in 2011. The project was marred in controversy from the start as before it commenced, there was litigation over which companies were to be appointed.

The project, which was initially estimated at a cost of just R500 000, aimed at supplying villages in the Giyani area with water. Its cost shockingly skyrocketed to more than R4 billion until the newly appointed Finance Minister, Tito Mboweni, described it as a waste of money and called for action. The project came into being after a visit by President Jacob Zuma, but to date, people of Giyani have no water.

Mkhwebane broke the ice on the matter on Friday and said that some of the parties implicated in the scandal have still to testify in the matter and this was the reason why her office could not make the report public. She said that when she had solicited comments from the affected parties she will release the report.

Minister Nomvula Mokonyane
Minister Nomvula Mokonyane

Among the parties implicated are Lepelle Northern Water (LNW), Mopani District Municipality (MDM) and former Water and Forestry Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane. After the intervention by Mboweni, the matter was reported to the office of the public protector and certain law enforcement agencies.

Two years after the project was implemented, in 2013, when then premier Cassel Mathale was removed after his administration allegedly embezzled more than R2 billion, Nomvula Mokonyane was instructed by then President Jacob Zuma to take over the control of water in Mopani and be placed in her department nationally.

Minister Tito Mboweni

Soon it emerged that a contractor from Johannesburg with links to the boyfriend of the minister oversaw the project. The project’s initial R500 000 cost then ballooned to R2 billion and later skyrocketed to R 3 billion and still there was no water for the community of Giyani. Then reports emerged that workers were on strike as they were not receiving their salaries.

The lack of water for the residents of Giyani forced then Minister of Water, Forestry and Fisheries, Gugile Nkwinti to visit the area in 2018 where he demanded answers from the Lepelle Northern Water as to why they were requesting even more money while people were still thirsty. In 2019 Premier Stanley Mathabatha went to Makosha village to launch the first phase of the project and promised residents that they will soon receive water.

A few months later Mboweni called for an end to the project which he termed a “waste of money” and instructed the Serious Crimes Investigating Unit (SCIU) to act on the matter. The SCIU have since filed papers in the South Gauteng High court seeking the attachment of the properties of the individuals implicated in the matter.

However, the current minister, Lindiwe Zulu has put the long serving Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Lepelle Northern Water (LNW), Phil Legodi, on suspension for alleged corruption. Though Legodi spoke out before the outcome of the disciplinary hearing saying that he was witch-hunted, Minister Zulu solicited the services of the Hawks to handle the matter. There have been no arrests yet.