News - Date: 25 June 2010
Written by: Elmon Tshikhudo / Viewed: 1217
Communities around Vhembe who have been experiencing serious water shortages while a billion-rand dam was in their midst, have been assured by the Minister of Water Affairs, Buyelwa Sonjica, that the dam will soon serve the communities rather than be a white elephant.
Nandoni dam was completed in 2004, yet some communities next to it have no water.
Speaking at the dam when she went to assess the problems experienced by the communities next to it, as well as those adversely affected by its construction, Sonjica announced last weekend the appointment of a task team which would meet with local structures and compile an action plan within a week. She will again visit the area on August 10 and discuss the problems with the structures.
This is the first indication of willingness by the government since the former public protector, Adv Lawrence Mushwana, released his findings and recommendations into problems of communities adversely affected by the construction of the dam. Sonjica said that the government had long shown its willingness for the dam to serve the communities.
She said that a contractor who had been hired to connect water pipes to the communities had been fired after it was found that the pipes used were below standard. She added that the department had suffered a loss of R440 million as a result of low-quality pipes.
Litigation ensued, but rather than wait for a court case against the contractor to be completed, the government would provide more funds to complete the project, so that people will get water.
“This is a step in the right direction. The problem has been that the department of water affairs had been avoiding us while at the same time giving the minister the wrong information,” said Mr Solomon Baloyi, the chairman of the complaints resolution committee representing the affected communities.
Baloyi, who had told the minister of the Department of Water Affairs’ lack of cooperation with the communities, said he was impressed with what the minister said.
“What it means is that all the problems will now be faced head-on and the Department of Water Affairs will no longer avoid us,” he said.
The communities had complained to the public protector about little compensation after they were removed and those on purchased land had complained about crocodiles and hippos next to their homesteads. The public protector had given the department of water affairs six months to settle the problems of the communities.