Ms LN Sisulu
Minister of Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation
Private Bag X9052
Cape Town

Honourable Minister Sisulu

OR Tambo District water and sanitation project: a humanitarian crisis in Mthatha, Mqanduli and Coffee Bay

1. I write to you with an urgent call to action regarding the fate of thousands of residents living in the villages of Mthatha and Mqanduli up to Coffee Bay in the Eastern Cape who are without water due to the abysmal failure of the OR Tambo District Municipality’s water and sanitation projects.

2. This entire mess started around seven or eight years ago, with the most recent flop in the name of a project called “Coffee Bay RWSS Phase 3B” that started in 2019, which was supposed to finally see the water supply problem resolved once and for all. It was expected to be completed in May this year, yet its current status: “Terminated”.

3. This is yet another dastardly failure due to blatant theft and dishonesty, corrupt officials, abuse of tender processes and poor financial controls.

4. According to OR Tambo District Municipality documents, a cool R170 million was allegedly paid in advance to the service provider on the project and not a single jot of work had allegedly been done by June 2020.

5. Already in June 2020 the United Democratic Movement (UDM) had written to the Auditor General and National Treasury, sensitising these departments of the pending disaster and warning about serious allegations of financial mismanagement and misconduct against the municipal manager of the OR Tambo District Municipality involving these water and sanitation projects to the tune of millions and millions of Rands.

6. Fortunately, the UDM’s call did not fall on deaf ears as the Auditor General exposed the administrative rot in full colour, but that could unfortunately do nothing to avoid the unfolding humanitarian disaster as hundreds of households are left without water to cook food, to wash, for sanitary purposes, to water plants for food and animals.

7. Not only has some elements within the administration of this municipality absconded with millions of Rands in money that should have been used for water provision, some of them also stole R4,8 million from a Covid-19 awareness campaign. This is a clear indication that all is not well at OR Tambo District Municipality and that these thieves have no moral compass.

8. I have been informed that the Special Investigation Unit (SIU) is still waiting for the proclamation from Eastern Cape Premier Oscar Mabuyane to investigate the matter. Why? Could the truth be that some of the monies for this critical project ended up at Calata House or in the pockets of some ruling party leaders? Could this be why Premier Mabuyane is hampering the work of the SIU?

9. It cannot be that the people are held at ransom by corrupt elements in government, especially on a project that should deliver on a basic service and human need. If the comrades in corruption cannot be made to return the money, the national department must find the money somewhere in its budget to complete this long outstanding project.

10. I call upon your good office to urgently intervene in this matter, as the people in these communities are desperate, their lives and livelihoods are at stake and it is due to no fault of their own.

11. We hope to hear from you soon.

Yours sincerely
Mr Bantu Holomisa, MP
President of the United Democratic Movement