The “rot” in state-owned entities (SOEs) is being personified by Magalies Water Chairperson Mosotho Petlane, a black party dignitary.
The politician has been accused by staff of wasting millions on a “futile” tour while residents in the area suffer from water shortages. The entity he represents, operates across three drought-stricken provinces: Gauteng, Limpopo and North West.
Senior staff are accusing chairperson Petlane of nepotism and wasteful spending. He made “irregular” appointments of “unqualified” friends, including that of a 24-year-old female graduate to a managerial position.
In August and September, 12 senior officials – including the chairperson, four members of his board and other senior executives and managers – went on the taxpayer-funded trip to Sweden for the annual World Water Week, despite the fact that there was “no adequate budget for the international trip for all the candidates”.
The SOE’s former general manager for finance, Khumo Kgatuke, asserted in documents seen by the Johannesburg daily, The Star that the available budget for international trips was only R430 400. Kgatuke resigned in July over rampant corruption.
But the board approved the trip despite the lack of budget, which totalled R1 845 204.36, invoices seen by The Star revealed. The amount covered included first-class travel on an Emirates Airlines round trip via Dubai, which totalled a massive R815 304.
Twelve “superior single rooms” were booked for nine nights at the exclusive Sheraton Stockholm Hotel, which totalled R829 620.36. The shuttle service for all 12 officials totalled R122 880.
International insurance cover and other service fees to the tune of thousands, made up the rest of the amount.
The South African Department of Water and Sanitation meanwhile has warned about the inadequacy of water-services infrastructure, revealing an annual R30-billion funding gap as well as shoddy planning.
Ahead of UN’s World Water Day Summit and Expo in Durban in March this year, the government admitted that procurement corruption had brought some water service delivery to a halt.
Another water project in Giyani, in the northern province of Limpop, which reportedly cost more than R170 million, left villages in the region without regular water.
According to Jo Burgess from the Water Research Council: “We [South Africa] are in trouble, big trouble.”
She said the response to drought warning signs came much too late. Even if rainfall was normal, or above normal, it would take three to four years before the aquifers and reservoirs “are back to what we think is normal”.
“It’s very frightening,” Burgess added.
Sources at the struggling Magalies Water say they are tired of the rampant nepotism and corruption, which, they added, was affecting the effective implementation of their work and resulting in dire water shortages.
They blamed the chairperson Petlane, accusing him of being “involved in the (daily) management of the organisation. “He (Petlane) instructs us on appointments of personnel, especially in supply-chain management.”
Ironically, the construction of a R13 million Ngobi water reservoir in the area, have left African villagers with no water. For the past five years, there hasn’t been water from the taps that President Jacob Zuma drank from at the time of his visit in the area in 2012 when he had promised them running water.
Zuma’s spokesperson, Bongani Ngqulunga, said the project had been plagued by “poor quality of work” during its construction, particularly the reservoir.
“Magalies Water, the implementing agent, says nine of 11 boreholes are operational,” said Ngqulunga, but villagers said they were still waiting for running water.
ANC Youth League chairperson Greg Molwelang told IOL: “President Zuma, came here in 2012 and said Ngobi will never be dry again. But now there is no water. Again we did not have water, but when they found out that the media will be here they the taps are now dripping with water.”