Pressure in the pipeline

By Marie Hurter

Lephalale – Landowners are fuming about the way in which the government is implementing its Mokolo Crocodile Water Augmentation Project (MCWAP).

They say the run-up to the project was marked by consultations and meetings between the state-owned Trans-Caledon Tunnel Authority (TCTA) and their appointed consultant companies, collectively known as the Mokolo Crocodile Consultants, but now that payments for land are due, they don’t hear from any of these parties.

The project, scheduled for completion in the next three to four years is currently in its first phase.

Phase one of the pipeline entails the construction of a new pump station and a  pipeline with a one metre diameter running parallel to the existing one from Mokolo Dam to Exxaro’s Grootegeluk Mine, Eskom’s power stations and to town. Phase 2 will bring an estimated 197 million m³ of water all the way from the Crocodile River near Thabazimbi through to Steenbokpan, and will connect with the infrastructure of Phase 1.

Landowners say since the implementation of the pipeline in 2011, communication with the authorities has deteriorated and is proving difficult, even downright impossible. Phone calls and letters or e-mails are not replied to and complaints are ignored, forcing many of them to seek legal advice.

The recurring complaints made to Northern News during interviews were:  “expropriation” without compensation for land or for loss of income; loss of fauna due to death traps in veld and negligence of TCTA personnel to close gates; the indiscriminate destruction of felled trees before the owners can remove them and the dumping of construction rubble on roads and private land.

After many failed attempts at reaching the Land Acquisitions Manager, Northern News finally communicated with Chris Mahlubandile Mageda, the Project Communications Manager at TCTA, who has taken the time to reply to questions over the last week.

According to Mageda the mentioned security issues involving open gates etc, stemmed from the appointment of incompetent sub-contractors from the area and as a result, TCTA has procured a new security company who will be taking over immediately.

According to Mageda the TCTA regards payment for land taken up by the project as a priority.  Contrary to what land owners say, Mageda maintains that TCTA has a social committee who engages with land owners on a weekly basis to discuss and address problems.

He says that TCTA is challenged by disputes on land values and requests for re-evaluations, legal procedings pertaining to land which is under estate or in trust accounts and also by elderly citizens who don’t understand the processes involved.

“Out of the 41 claims on land for the construction of the tunnel, TCTA has so far resolved 20,” said Mageda.  He says that through the course of September 2012 land owners will be visited by TCTA and updated on the status of their queries.  In the meantime he asks that people contact him directly with any issues pertaining to the pipeline.

Landowners who own farms along the planned tunnel route have no option but to sell the portions in question as the tunnel project is deemed in national interest. Those who do not sell willingly will face expropriation at market related prices determined by a court of law.