Eastern Cape municipality to answer for R15m sportsfield

The newly built R15m Lesseyton sportsfield. Photo: Facebook

Eastern Cape municipalities have spent millions on sub-standard and some times useless facilities, built by construction company, Thalami Civils.

MEC of co-operative governance and traditional affairs in the Eastern Cape, Xolile Nqatha, has given the council of Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality (EMLM) at least 48 hours to answer for R15m spent on a sportsfield. On Thursday, Nqatha visited the multi-million rand Lesseyton sportsfield in Eastern Cape near Komani (formerly Queenstown).

The Lesseyton sportsfield made headlines on Monday after the municipality posted pictures on their Facebook page stating that the ground with a patchy field, broken goalposts and two steel grandstands has cost tax payers R15-million. Comments started flooding in on the Enoch Mgijima Facebook page with people calling the municipality and the ANC a disgrace.s

The post was later removed and replaced with another showing better photos. This time the local municipality said, they were setting the record straight, though people still disputed the claimed expenditure. EMLM said the R15-million was spent on:

  • Palisade fencing
  • Rock blasting
  • Earth works
  • Layer works
  • Rugby and soccer field
  • Athletics track
  • Ablution facilities
  • Change rooms
  • Boreholes
  • Water reticulation installation
  • Sewer system with septic tank
  • Electricity installation
  • Rain water catchment tank
  • Guard house
  • Steel grand stands

Nqatha said that while he is not a technical expert, the value of what he saw there did not match the amount spent on building the sportsfield. He said a proper investigation will be conducted to check if the correct processes were followed to hire service providers.

EMLM mayor, Luleka Gubhula apologised to the community of Komani for the photos posted on their Facebook page as they did not show the entire project. Talking on a local radio station on Tuesday night, she said the project was 99% complete but they had decided to open it to avoid vandalism. This outstanding 1% of the facility includes building a netball court and other touch-ups. The tender for the sports ground, she said, was valued at R22-million – leaving R7-million to spend on this last 1%.

This has angered Komani people with some calling for the ANC to be voted out in the next local government elections. Thandeka Maphangwana from Lesseyton said it would be better if the borehole the municipality digs for the sports ground benefitted the whole community of Ndlovukazi. “Yes the sport is going to benefit our children and it is needed here but what we are disputing is the amount they are saying they paid to build that sportsfield; it can’t be R15-million. The mayor’s explanation does not make any sense at all. Maybe it’s time they show us slips, maybe we will believe them; until then, Hawks must be invited to dig more about this project,” she said.

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The construction company must bring back the change, she joked wryly: “We are not happy. This area lacks service delivery. Our road condition are bad and for years we have been without water. Taps are dry. The municipality should have built us bigger boreholes.”

Lindelwa Peter echoed the need for a full investigation of the project, by the Hawks and the Public Protector. “I’m a member of the development committee in Lesseyton and we are not happy with that stadium. At least they should have built the paving they promised us in 2017 when they introduced the ward councillor,” said Peter.

A lot went wrong during the construction of Lesseyton sportsfield, including how people were hired. “There was no community meeting; people were told via WhatsApp about the jobs. Clearly they gave jobs to those that they know will keep quiet if anything goes wrong,” she said. However, Peter is not happy that people are blaming the ANC. She holds the local municipality responsible.

The construction company

The company hired to build the sportsfield is Thalami Civils Pty Ltd. Its website states that a tender of R22-million was issued in 2020-2021 for 12 months for the construction of Lesseyton sportsfield. It also boasts of building a R4-million Tsomo taxi rank for Intsika Yethu Local Municipality in 2019, and, in 2017, Centane taxi rank for the Mnquma Local Municipality, which cost R64-million.

In 2017, the Daily Dispatch reported that the founder of the company, Luthando Jojwana was arrested along with four employees for stealing paving bricks belonging to Mquma Municipality to allegedly finish the Centane taxi rank project.

Jane Cowley, the leader of Democratic Alliance at Enoch Mgijima, said that professionals they have asked to evaluate the project put the value of work done and materials at R4,85 million.

Tsomo taxi rank finished two years ago is useless, say Tsomo taxi drivers. Photo by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik 

The Tsomo taxi rank which has been ready for two years is too small for taxis to make a U-turn, taxi drivers told Elitsha.

Tsomo Taxi Association chairperson, Sibongile Gwadela said the taxi rank is not what the municipality promised before its construction. He also complained about the amount the municipality claimed to have spent building the taxi rank saying it is a lie: “This structure cannot cost R4-million and this taxi rank is very small, we cannot use it. These people showed us a very beautiful plan with shelter, an office for the association, but they gave us a one-way taxi rank,” he said.

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When the drivers complained, the municipality changed its tune and said the taxi rank is not for big taxis but for bakkie-taxis. The owners and drivers of these vehicles told our reporter that the municipality never informed them about the changes, and as far as they know the taxi rank is for big taxis. Lizwe Matshoba who uses his bakkie as a taxi said even if the rank is for bakkies, the fact remains it could not cost R4-million to build a facility that lacks even the basics, like a shelter which bakkie drivers would need.

Explaining the cost, Intsika Yethu Local Municipality spokesperson, Zuko Tshangana, said most of the money was used on earthworks. He said the taxi rank has six flush toilets and five traders’ stalls.

Gwadela said MEC Nqatha had promised to send inspectors to survey the taxi rank and to get it fixed. “For now I can say the taxi association is happy with the meeting we had with the MEC and hoping that they are going to fix that taxi rank soon,” he said.

Centane residents have called for Nqatha to also look into their taxi rank where costs ballooned way out of any proportion. The taxi rank has one toilet which lacks water most of the time and an office.

Centane residents are calling on government to investigate their R64m taxi rank. Photo by Nombulelo Damba-Hendrik 

Community leader, Vuyo Fente said, “It’s time Nqatha, Hawks and Auditor General investigate all the projects done by Thalami Civils. And why this company is so blessed with so many projects in the Eastern Cape. “This so-called R64-million rank has no gate and the fencing is no longer there. Government must investigate everything and people must be fired,” he said.

Meanwhile, opposition parties at Enoch Mgijima have distanced themselves from the Lesseyton sportsfield saga. EFF’s Luthando Amos said they were not even invited to the unveiling of the new facility, while UDM’s Mthuthuzeli Hokolo said they warned the council about Thalami Civils but were not heard. DA leader, Hellen Zille, who also visited the Lesseyton sportsfield on Thursday asked about the unspent R7-million.

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