South Africa: Gift of the Givers Withdraws from Makhanda

Gift of the Givers provides bottled drinking water in South Africa, Malawi and Senegal (file photo).
16 May 2019
Gift of the Givers
press release

We have been inundated by calls from the media to confirm if we are withdrawing from Makhanda. The answer is "Yes". There has been no disagreement with the Makhanda Municipality, they have been excellent. The municipality, university, the multicultural community, political parties, SAPS, B and B establishments, learners, tourists and students gave us the most memorable reception that anyone could ever have dreamt of.

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On 9 February the municipality requested our assistance and said in five days everything will be back on line in terms of water supply. Gift of the Givers intervened on 12 February and explained to the municipality the extent of the problem was far greater than anyone envisaged. We drew up a rescue plan and commenced the process of "saving the city" immediately. We advised the municipality that the cost to solve the problem will be in the region of R23 million and that this will require government funding. They said the area has been declared a disaster in the government gazette and they will receive emergency funding with which they will remunerate Gift of the Givers. They were honest, were not sure how much they would receive and when they would receive it. We said it's fine, their word was good enough for us. We were told that at a council meeting in March it was a unanimous decision that Gift of the Givers will be funded the moment the funds arrive.

Gift of the Givers brought in specialist hydrologist, Dr Gideon Groenewald, to site and drill boreholes in an area where the geology is very difficult and finding water a big challenge. He was successful in 3 hours with the first borehole. We successfully drilled 15 boreholes, tested the water which is a huge cost, brought in special filtration systems designed by us, delivered bottled water, water by truck and did everything possible to assist the community as that was the priority. In all this time we had not received a single cent from any government institution. The costs were rising daily. Thus far the intervention has cost us R15 million. The Department of Water and Sanitation (DSW) started engaging us. We've had, without exaggeration, more than 50 hours of meetings, 13 weeks have passed, the town is in crisis (we were called in on every occasion to quell unrest related to provision of water) and government is still having meetings, preparing business plans, filling in forms and God knows what, a typical case of Nero fiddles whilst Rome burns. But the best came from DSW on Freedom Day, when President Cyril Ramaphosa, was addressing the nation. They told us to move our trucks as there is no water crisis in Makhanda. Ironically, the president mentioned in his speech that there can be no freedom if there is no water in Makhanda.

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This week we received the most incredible feedback from DWS. They said only companies from Grahamstown can be paid for the drought intervention so accordingly, a private consultancy will be paid R1.2 million for work related to boreholes (we did the consultancy work, drew up a plan to save the city and sited the boreholes), another company will be paid R7 million for boreholes (which we drilled) and a third company will be paid R1.9 million for electrical work to connect boreholes which we drilled at Waainek (and which we have not be compensated for) to the treatment plant. This is R10 million of taxpayers money handed out freely by the government to people as remuneration for work that Gift of the Givers did. Our hearts are with the people of Makhanda, the elderly, the women and children and everyone who waited so patiently for water but as a matter of principle we cannot continue.

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