The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) does not respect their end-users enough to show up for a meeting, scheduled between themselves and representatives of the community, in Tzaneen on Wednesday this week. Instead, the representatives of the DWS held their meeting in secret at the council chambers of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality.

On Monday, Bulletin received notice of a meeting that was scheduled to take place at the council chamber of the GTM between the DWS and members of various end-user groups including the Letaba Water Users Association, SANParks, Agri-Letaba and various others. The media was not officially invited, and no public notices were published.

At 09:45 on the morning of the scheduled meeting, it was announced that the venue for the meeting had been changed and that it would now take place at the Mopani Disaster Management Centre at approximately 10:30.

Bulletin arrived at the venue at precisely 10:32 and was surprised that inside the auditorium sat only four other individuals, who had already been waiting for the meeting to start for close on 15 minutes. These individuals were Jacques Kruger of the Letaba Water Users Association, Naomi Excell and Pieter Vorster of Agri Letaba and Jacques Venter of SANParks. There was no sign of any member of the DWS. In fact, the only evidence that a meeting was scheduled to take place, were the branded DWS banners proclaiming their commitment to service and risk management.

After waiting for an hour, one of the four attendees contacted one of the DWS representatives to find out why the meeting was running behind schedule by more than an hour. He was told that the representatives were on their way to the venue, but they were first “wrapping up at the municipality.”

Another hour passed and eventually the four people signed the attendance register and left. The meeting was apparently part of the DWS “Roadshow”. At the time of going to print we had not received any feedback on what exactly this roadshow was, why the meeting held at the municipality was not open to the public, what the municipality’s involvement with a national project was, or whether the meeting would be rescheduled. We also received no apology for the unprofessionalism and clear disdain with which the DWS treated their end-users.

Regarding the disgraceful Tzaneen Dam project, we wanted to use the opportunity during the meeting, to question the DWS on exactly what went wrong with the project, when will it be completed and at what extra cost. We have tried on numerous occasions to gain any new information from the department’s spokesperson, Sputnik Ratau, but this has been fruitless.

To date, the public have heard no clear explanations of the actual reasons why the dam’s wall was never completed. There have been open-ended excuses tabled which included the usual budgetary constraints or Covid-19 hampering efforts or “once the project started we encountered challenges which we did not expect.”

But as you read this article, Tzaneen’s dam wall is still not completed despite the great revelation that the new minister of water affairs wanted to stop using outside contractors and that the DWS Construction North team would take over and finish the project. That was two years ago during a meeting in the hall at the showgrounds.

What now? What excuse will we force feed the Muscovy with this time? The public has the right to know precisely what their money is being spent on and what the reasons are for projects that directly affect their livelihoods being cancelled or failing, and the solutions for those.

When meetings are scheduled and commitments not honoured, it leaves a decidedly bad taste in the mouths of those fitting the bill. – If you like foie gras, that doesn’t mean you no longer need a regular steak. — Alexey Miller