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Water Dept denies being responsible for job losses at Giyani water project

Eyewitness News revealed recently that construction company Khato Civils was forced to retrench the workers after the department had failed to pay for completed work.

National Department of Water and Sanitation logo. Picture: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – Despite nearly 1,000 employees being retrenched at the Giyani Bulk Water project, the cash-strapped Department of Water and Sanitation says it’s not responsible for this.

Eyewitness News revealed recently that construction company Khato Civils was forced to retrench the workers after the department had failed to pay for completed work.

The project, with costs ballooning to over R3 billion from just over R500 million, was launched by former President Jacob Zuma in 2014, with the aim of addressing water shortages in Giyani.

It was meant to supply 55 villages with clean drinking water but only five communities have so far been connected.

Four years and over R3 billion later, there are still 50 villages without access to clean drinking water in Giyani.

The company tasked to make sure the villages have water says it couldn’t keep its staff of nearly 1,000 workers and complete the project simply because the almost bankrupt Water Department went for months without paying up.

After Eyewitness News reported on the department’s failure to meet its obligations, it then paid the company R64 million.

But the firm says it will not go back on site because government still owes it over R40 million and must also confirm and guarantee the budget for the remainder of the work.

Department spokesperson Sputnik Ratau: "We shall not involve ourselves in matters of Khato Civils and their labourers."

But the company says it was the department’s failure to pay up that led to the retrenchments.

So, as things stand, R3 billion has been spent on the water project, four years later and there is not much to show for it.

(Edited by Leeto M Khoza)