The "before and after" slide at Waterval High.

NLC's promises of toilets leave a nasty smell

 

By Anton van Zyl, Bernard Chiquvare and Kaizer Nengovhela

 

A month ago all roads leading to Waterval High School were barricaded by angry learners and parents after the community embarked on protest action about the condition of the school.

The protestors said the school was not a safe place for their children to be taught. They demanded that the Department of Education fix the school’s classrooms and ablution blocks, where toilets were leaking and some of the ceilings caving in.

What makes the sting is that the school governing body (SGB) and the principal were unaware that R10-million had been made available by the National Lotteries Commission (NLC) last year to fix and rebuild toilets in Limpopo. Waterval High was one of the 10 schools earmarked for “the construction of ablution facilities”.

To add to the irony, when the demonstrations took place on April 9 this year, a “refurbishment” of the toilets at Waterval High had already been done by a subcontractor hired by Zibsifusion, the Pretoria-based non-profit company that received the Lotto funding for the Limpopo toilets project.

On April 9 learners and parents from Waterval High barricaded roads, complaining about the dillapidated buildings and toilets.

 

Zibsifusion shares an address and some directors with another NPC, Dinosys, which received a further R10-million contract for the “construction of sanitation facilities” at 15 schools in the Eastern Cape. Both Zibsifusion and Dinosys were paid R7-million upfront - a total of R14-m - by the NLC.

A sub-contractor arrived at Waterval over a weekend in February this year, slapped some paint on some walls and replaced two doors, according to SGB members. The SGB also denied ever being contacted by the NLC or a representative of the company tasked to do the renovations.

By the time parents and learners took to the streets early in April to protest about the condition of their school, very little of the work done using Lotto money was visible.

The story took another twist last week when the NLC issued an invitation to local media to attend a “hand over” of the supposedly newly-constructed toilets. Prior to the visit the NLC made available a “progress report”, which later turned out to be a misleading document, claiming that construction work at three schools are almost finished.

During the course of the NLC delegation’s visit to Waterval for the handover, the scope of the project changed dramatically - and is now claimed to be only an unfinished renovation project.

Despite the NLC regularly bragging about its tight monitoring and evaluation processes during projects, the (NLC) officials expressed “dissatisfaction” at the workmanship and postponed the handover.

“The Commission has instructed the service provider and independent engineers to implement corrective measures, and ensure quality assurance of the projects in consultation with the Provincial Education Department and the school’s SGB,” a press statement released afterwards stated.

Who is Zibsifusion?

The circumstances leading to the sudden “handover” of toilets are highly suspicious. The credentials of Zibsifusion, the non-profit company (NPC) involved in the Limpopo toilets projects and its directors and former directors, have raised eyebrows.

The National Lotteries Commission has been in the spotlight over the past two years for some strange grants made to non-compliant and, in some cases, very dubious organisations.

In February last year Limpopo Mirror reported on the R27.5-million funding granted to a Vhembe-registered NPO, Denzhe Primary Care, to build a drug rehabilitation centre. The centre is still unfinished and embroiled in litigation, and both the NPO and the NLC have refused to disclose how about R20 million of the grant was spent.

It later transpired that Denzhe Primary Care was used by controversial Pretoria-based lawyer Lesley Ramulifho to secure funding from the NLC. The founding chairperson of Denzhe, Takalani Tshikalange, initially complained to police about Ramulifho, accusing him in a sworn affidavit of hijacking the NPO. She later changed her story and was reinstated as chairperson.

Online publication, Groundup has revealed that at least three more NLC grants were made late last year to companies where Ramulifho is a director - or had been a director - but then resigned.

Groundup reported in March that R10 million was awarded to Zibsifusion and a further R10 million was given to Dinosys to address sanitation problems at schools in Limpopo and the Eastern Cape. Both grants were made under the pro-active funding model. A third company, I Am Made For God’s Glory (IAM4GG), signed a R11,37 million contract with the NLC in April 2018 “to provide infrastructure in order to advance sport, recreation and physical activity in communities across the country”.

Ramulifho is still a director of IAM4GG, but he resigned as director of Dinosys and Zibsifusion a few months before the NLC awarded the multi million rand grants. Pro-active funding is controversial because it gives the NLC the discretion to identify projects and fast-track funding. The legislation, which was changed in 2015 to allow this, allows for funding requests from three sources: the Minister of Trade and Industry, the Lotteries Board or the Commission itself. The NLC stated in a press release that the funding of Zibsifusion and Dinosys was at the request of the Commission.

Zibsifusion is a typical “shelf” NPC. It was registered in December 2015 with three directors, Christian Gouws, Kim du Plessis and Adelle van Tonder. All three resigned on May 16, 2017 when three new directors were appointed. The newly-appointed directors were Lesley Ramulifho, Tsietsi Tshabalala and Liesl Moses, according to CIPC records. Tshabalala and Moses are employees of Ramulifho and work in his Pretoria law offices. On May 31, 2017, Zibsifusion’s registered address changed to 21A Garsfontein Park, which is also the office address of Ramulifho’s practice.

Ramulifho then resigned on 15 March 2018 and Louisa Mangwagape, another if his employees, became a director. Ten days before this a bank account was opened for the NPC. Eight months later, on 6 November 2018, the NLC approved funding of R10 million to build much-needed toilets at rural schools. From what could be established, R7 million has been paid to Zibsifusion so far. Mangwagape signed the documents in her capacity as chairperson of Zibsifusion.

NLC on the attack

Shortly after the Groundup story broke, the NLC went on the attack and lambasted the reporter, Raymond Joseph, in a press release calling his report “frivolous” and “mischievous”. The NLC ascribed the report to a personal crusade to “tarnish the image of the NLC.”

The NLC’s press release also highlighted the schools sanitation projects. “The NLC has funded the construction of ablution facilities in ten (10) schools within the jurisdiction of the most disadvantaged communities in our country with the intention of restoring the dignity of the young black children in post democratic South Africa,” the statement said.

“To this end the NLC has appointed professional, independent engineers to assist in the quality assurance of these projects and the monitoring and evaluation thereof. The progress reports depicting work done to date in all schools within the aforementioned provinces are attached hereto for ease of reference,” the NLC stated. No progress report was, however, attached.

When the NLC’s Head: Stakeholder Relations, Marketing and Communications, Mr Ndivhuho Mafela, was asked for a copy of the missing report, he instead sent a press release with details of a study showing that in Limpopo “almost 80% of the schools still rely on old infrastructure for water and sanitation services.” The study also recommended the use of Enviro-Loo type or related facilities.

Pressed for a copy of the missing report, Mafela forwarded a PowerPoint presentation on April 2.

The document proved to be very interesting. It was created on March 4, 2019 by Zibsifusion director Liesl Moses, two days after a Groundup journalist sent through questions about the NPC to the NLC. The last edit on the document was done on March 25, 2019 by Marubini Ramatsekisa, three days after the NLC’s press release trashing Groundup’s report.

The PowerPoint document included the names of only eight Limpopo schools earmarked for new toilets. Four of them, Nthabalala Primary School in Tshitale, Tshikhovhokhovho Primary in Lwamondo, Tshilapfene Primary School in Vhufuli and Waterval High School near Elim, are in the Vhembe district.

The progress report indicates that construction work is in progress at three of the schools, namely at Ncheleleng Secondary School, Tibanefontein Primary School and Waterval High. “The other schools are still in progress of its final assessments,” the report reads. Also, although the NLC says it is funding construction work at ten schools in Limpopo, the progress report only lists eight schools.

The report also includes “before and after” photos of the work at the three schools’ toilets. At least one photo, showing a sturdy brick building under construction, has been used to illustrate progress at all three schools. Others appeared to be of the same buildings taken from different angles.

Mafela later dismissed this as a “mistake” and said photos of work in progress were not supposed to be included in the report about Waterval High.

 
 
A case of deja vu? The photos supplied by the NLC that formed part of the progress report show surprising similarities. The building at the top photo is supposedly from Ncheleleng, the one in the middle taken at Tibanefontein and the bottom one shows construction at Waterval High.

 

No new toilets at Waterval

Reporters from Limpopo Mirror visited Waterfall to report on the protest action on April 9. The chairperson of the SGB, Ms Gladys Maluleke, told the reporters that the school’s parents had been pleading with the Department of Education to renovate buildings, to no avail. “Our children are no longer safe in these classes. That is why we took a decision to close the school,” Maluleke said.

At the time Mr Sam Makondo, spokesperson for the Department of Education, said the conditions at the school were the result of bad maintenance of infrastructure. He said that the department was also seeking explanations as to what the school’s “maintenance money” had been used for.

Limpopo Mirror visited the school a few days later to investigate further. Deputy SGB chairperson Robert Ngobeni said that they (the SGB) were not aware of any money donated by Lottery to build toilets.

“We were approached by a Mr Ofense Modibane from Zipsfusion (sic) who wanted to do repairs. Later the renovations were done by Tebogo Morulane and his team. We are not sure whether Morulane was subcontracted,” he said.

The school register confirms that Modibane visited the school on January 30. The “renovations” were apparently done over a weekend in February, Ngobeni said. “They did a shoddy job, because the toilets started leaking in less than a month,” he added.

Enquiries at the three other Vhembe based schools indicated a similar picture with little evidence that anything is happening to construct toilets.

At Nthabalala Primary School, which has about 150 learners who use pit toilets, the principal referred questions to the SGB chairperson. The chairperson, Elisa Rambuda, said that the SGB knew nothing about the proposed toilets. She said people who said they were from the Limpopo Department of Education visited the school last year in December during the school holidays for a “survey”. The SGB have not since received any report from these visitors. She said the school is still in need of the toilets. The only toilet it has, was built by the Thusano company.

The Tshikhovhokhovho Primary School at Khumbe village at Lwamondo also only has pit toilets for its approximate 180 learners. Mbulaheni Thaba from the SGB responded to questions saying that some guys alleging to be from the Limpopo Department of Education visited the school for a survey, but they have not heard anything from them. The school has already built toilets using funds raised by the learners.

Limpopo Mirror was unable to contact the principal or any SGB members at Tshilapfene Primary School. The school has about 200 learners. A person staying very close to the school said that a team of workers arrived on 15 April to build a “VIP toilet” consisting of four girls and four boys’ toilets. She was a bit upset because they had not employed any local people to assist with the work.

A disastrous road show

In an effort that appears to have been an attempt to pre-empt negative media reports, the NLC arranged a road show last Thursday to hand over the completed toilets. It kicked off at Ncheleleng and Tibanefontein, two rural schools near Polokwane in the morning. Both featured in the Zibsifusion report, with at least one identical photo used to show progress at both schools.

“Facilities at Ncheleleng and Tibanefontein schools, which previously used pit latrines, were handed over to the School Governing Body (SGB), principals, and learners who expressed gratitude to the Commission for this contribution that will change their daily experiences,” said the NLC’s Ndivhuho Mafela afterwards in a press statement. A single photo of a completed ablution block, supposedly taken at one of the schools, was supplied with the NLC’s progress report.

A representative of the NLC (left) joins the SGB members and a representative of the contractor in inspecting the ablution facilities at Waterval High.

 

The NLC delegation arrived late in the afternoon at Waterval, where they were met by an agitated group comprising of SGB members, staff and other stakeholders. Before their arrival the people present inspected the ablution facilities. In the boys’ toilets they found water spilled all over the floor and two of the six toilets were not working. The roof also needs some urgent work and paint on the facia boards is peeling off.

The girls’ block has eight toilets, but at least three do not flush.

Two of the men who “renovated” the toilets were also present, but refused to identify themselves. “Building new toilets is a new story to us,” one said. “We came here for renovations only.”

The school’s deputy SGB chairperson, Robert Ngobeni, later said that one of the men made a veiled threat that, should the school complain about the project, the funds allocated would be utilized elsewhere.

During the press conference at Waterval, the NLC’s Ndivhuwo Mafela was asked about the invitation sent to the media, stating that toilets would be handed over at the three schools. Just a day earlier Mafela, in an interview with a local radio station, also said that toilets would be handed over at Waterval.

But a day later his story had changed dramatically.

“Today we came here and inspected the facilities that we have funded and we agreed with the SGB, the headmaster and members of the community that the result of what we funded is not what we expected. We agreed that the mistake that we made needs to be rectified,” Mafela said.

Asked for details of the contractors responsible for the shoddy work, Mafela refused to name them. “I currently do not want to get into the mechanics of that. All I can tell you is that we have all admitted and agreed that the ablution facilities at this school are not all up to the standard … and we have agreed that we are going to fix and bring them to the standard that everybody expects,” he said.

When Mafela was confronted with the “before and after” photos provided to the press that seemed clearly false, Mafela said that there are “confusion” surrounding them.

Lottopreneurs?

Mr Sam Makondo, spokesperson for the Department of Education, said the department was aware of the project and had met with the NLC representatives at the end of 2018. The department identified the schools in need of new toilets or renovations.

He said that the various school principals were informed about the projects. Even though work in progress at Waterval High was included in the Zibsifusion progress report, Makondo said the school was never scheduled to get new toilets. Construction work at the other schools would start “soon”, he said.

He said the threat that the NLC grant will be taken away from Waterval was never reported to the department.

A list of questions sent to the NLC last week included a query as to why Zibsifusion was chosen to drive the schools sanitation project. This NPC has no track record suggesting it can handle projects of this nature, and is also not based in the provinces where the toilets projects are taking place.

The NLC has previously been accused of encouraging a system of “Lottopreneurs”, where dodgy NPOs and NPCs are used for the sole purpose of driving Lotto-funded projects.

After an investigation into the controversy surrounding Lesley Ramulifho was aired on Carte Blanche recently, the NLC issued a press release attempting to justify the grants made to Dinosys and Zibsifusion.

“To this end the Commission has appointed professional, independent engineers to assist in the quality assurance of these projects and the monitoring and evaluation thereof. We assure the South African public and our beneficiaries that the NLC remains committed to clean governance and all allegations of misuse of funds by the beneficiaries are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly,” the statement reads.

In the questions sent to the NLC, Mafela was asked about the absence of any such professionals at the Waterval High project. He was also asked to supply the names of the professional people involved in the project.

In spite of repeated requests and highlighting the deadline for the story, Mafela, as well as the Zibsifusion directors, did not respond.

 

The cost of an ablution block

 

To build a block of toilets for a school where there is no running water, is not a cheap exercise. Limpopo Mirror spoke to a quantity surveyor who, up until a few years ago, managed a number of such projects at schools.

The surveyor, who wanted to remain anonymous, estimated that a four-seat toilet block would cost R535 000 plus VAT. This would not include professional fees for an architect or engineer, which would add about seven percent to the total. A toilet block catering for 200 children would need about eight “seats”, four for boys and four for girls and would cost about R1,3 million.

The reason for it being so expensive is because the tanks need to be buried in the ground and this calls for reinforced concrete slabs, he said. The location of the school will also influence costs, and it is more expensive to do construction in outlying areas, he said.

The Department of Education provides norms and standards for building toilets. These are in line with the National Building Regulations (two toilets per classroom), but vary in some circumstances. For primary schools the ratio of toilets per pupil is 1:25, while it drops to 1:20 for secondary schools. The maximum for primary schools is set at 1:35 and for high schools it is 1:30.

(This article was edited, because some of the costs were disputed by other companies dealing with such toilets. One company, that supplies such tanks, reckoned it will be much cheaper and promised to send a detailed cost analysis. Once we have received this we will add another article discussing the cost.)

 

 

 

The "before and after" slide at Tibanefontein.

The "before and after" slide at Ncheleleng.

A photo supplied by the NLC shows construction work at Waterval High School.

A photo supplied by the NLC shows construction work at Tibanefontein Primary School.

A photo supplied by the NLC shows construction work at Tibanefontein Primary School.

A photo supplied by the NLC shows construction work at Ncheleleng Secondary School.

A photo supplied by the NLC shows construction work at Ncheleleng Secondary School.

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