Ditched with broken roads, broken cars, broken promises

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Ditched with broken roads, broken cars, broken promises

Residents have no choice but to fix roads with their own money after a contractor allegedly abandoned the work

Journalist


Butterworth and Nqamakwe residents in the Eastern Cape have used their own money to renovate dilapidated roads after a contractor appointed by the Mnquma municipality allegedly abandoned his site upon being paid millions of rands.
The contractor, Eagle Ukhozi, has denied this, saying the municipality still owed it money. Some residents say they have no choice but to fork out their own money – not only to help fix some of the roads, but also to fix their vehicles damaged by driving on the unfinished roads.
The Hawks are investigating two contracts with a combined value of R70m awarded to the company called Eagle Ukhozi.
Hawks national spokesperson Brigadier Hangwani Mulaudzi said charges under investigation included fraud, theft, corruption and money laundering.
“One case is still under investigation and the other is awaiting a decision from the director of public prosecutions in Mthatha,” Mulaudzi said, declining to give more details.
Mnquma Local Municipality spokesperson Loyiso Mpalantshane said the contracts had been awarded to Eagle Ukhozi, but the projects had been left incomplete, and even the completed areas were shoddy.
Nqamakwe resident Nolundi Tshangana said she had spent thousands repairing her vehicle. “I do not know how many tyres I had to change due to these roads. We even collected R100 each per household in order to repair a section of our roads.” Tshangana said the community also received a donation from a contractor to assist them with the construction of a culvert leading to their village.
“When it rains, we are forced to travel nearly 30km to our homes or spend the night with friends in nearby villages until it’s safe to travel,” she said.
Velisile Bukula, who is from Nqamakwe but works in Pretoria, said he dreaded visiting home because the roads were bad.
“I think twice about going home. That is how bad the roads are. If it rains, chances are you going to sleep in your car or with friends, as the road is so bad,” Bukula said.
Mnquma municipality spokesperson Loyiso Mpalantshane said the first project, to resurface Butterworth township roads, was awarded to Eagle Ukhozi. The contract was to run for four years, from 2014 until 2018.
“The contractor was paid to a certain extent, but failed to complete the project,” Mpalantshane said. He declined to say how much they had paid the company, claiming all documents with regards to this tender were with the Hawks.
He assured Mnquma residents that all the abandoned projects would be completed timeously, as they had appointed new contractors to complete the projects.
Mpalantshane said officials implicated in acts of wrongdoing had left the municipality, either through resignations or at the end of their terms.
Last week, Thembelani Ndlazi, director of Eagle Ukhozi, said he had abandoned the project after the municipality failed to pay him on time.
He, however, denied being awarded the Nqamakwe streets contract by Mnquma despite the municipality’s spokesperson insisting Eagle Ukhozi was awarded both road contracts.
Ndlazi claimed the Nqamakwe project had been awarded to an East London company, which also abandoned the site due to nonpayment by the municipality.
Ndlazi said his company had been paid R7.7m for the Butterworth contract, and claimed the municipality still owed him R153,555. He said Eagle Ukhozi had also been awarded a R5.3m contract to construct the Butterworth driver’s licence and testing centre in November 2014.
He said he had been paid just more than R2.6m for that job and was still owed R659,586.
“The amount owed was certified by engineers of the municipality,” he claimed.
“In total we were paid approximately R10.4m for services rendered on both projects,” Ndlazi said.
He challenged anyone who claimed his work had been substandard to produce evidence.
“The municipality has a right not to pay a claim and instead order a laboratory to conduct further tests. Since we stopped due to nonpayment, work done to a particular stage got damaged by rain and moving traffic. This happens anywhere if construction stops prior to completion,” he said.
He accused the municipality of being dominated by corrupt officials.
“The Hawks never indicated they were investigating neither the company nor me. I have never been interviewed by anyone from the Hawks. I would welcome and co-operate with any investigation,” Ndlazi said.
Asked to respond to that, the municipality’s Mpalantshane said: “Unfortunately, we are unable to provide you with any further responses to your questions as a result of missing paper trail arising out of the confiscation of documents relating to the projects ... by the Hawks.”

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