Standoff halts major R32m sewer line upgrade project
A major sewer line upgrade in KwaNobuhle has been at a complete standstill for about two weeks as rival SMMEs demand to be allocated work in the R32m project.
The project was stopped amid a standoff between two groups of SMMEs – those who are believed to be compliant with the municipality’s supply chain processes and those who are not.
This has resulted in municipal workers being blocked from entering the area.
The project is set to be completed in June 2019 and is expected to augment the Kelvin Jones sewer line which would minimise blockages in the area.
The small business owners also closed ward councillor Lindelwa Qukubana’s office on Monday, leaving residents in need of assistance in the lurch.
DA councillor Masixole Zinto, who was formerly in charge of the infrastructure and engineering portfolio, said out of nearly 50 SMMEs, only 18 were compliant.
Zinto said the project, however, could only be awarded to seven SMMEs in the ward.
“The SMMEs were instructed to solve their issues or else the project would be taken elsewhere,” Zinto said.
“Having the site closed is huge because we are trying to reduce the load to the Kelvin Jones water treatment works.
“The upgrade is a long-term project that will ensure there are fewer blockages in KwaNobuhle.
“The sewer lines are old and if this project does not go ahead we risk having sewage spills.”
Zinto said the plan was to have the compliant SMMEs rotate and take turns on the same project.
A small business owner who asked not to be named said the impasse in the area was worsened by allegations that Qukubana was involved in the distribution of work to the various SMMEs.
Black business caucus coordinator Lithemba Singaphi – who said he represents more than 2,000 SMMEs in Nelson Mandela Bay – said engagements meant to end “wardism” were ongoing.
“We have been told about a meddling councillor but that is as much as we know so far.
“We are still trying to solve the issue of wardism.”
Singaphi said the plan was to ensure SMMEs were able to work anywhere in the metro.
Qukubana denied that she had interfered in the awarding of tenders.
“This is the first I have heard of this. I have no involvement in tenders,” she said.
On Friday, Qukubana said her office was still closed but a meeting with SMMEs had been scheduled for next week.
Municipal spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said: “The municipality hopes to resolve the challenges that have led to the closure of the site so that deadlines can be met.
“Numerous engagements with the contractor, ward councillor, [emerging enterprises] and municipal officials to mitigate the challenge are continuing. There is hope for a resolution soon.”