The incomplete Waterval Stadium. Photo: Thembi Siaga.
While the Makhado Municipality and the contractors appointed for Phases 2 and 3 of the project to upgrade the Waterval Stadium are entangled in a finger-pointing battle, frustrated residents are threatening to take matters into their own hands and start fixing the stadium themselves. They say they are tired of dealing with the municipality’s incompetence.
This multi-million-rand stadium has been in the works since 2017, promising sports facilities that have yet to materialise. The upgrading project finally commenced two years ago, but the hopes of local athletes and sports enthusiasts remain locked behind the gates of a dream that has still not been realised as delays prevent the contractors from finishing the project.
In December last year, Makhado Municipality’s spokesperson, Mr Louis Bobodi, claimed that the smooth progress of the construction was being hindered and delayed by various problems, including the installation of a power transformer. A month ago, responding to this newspaper’s inquiry on the still-incomplete state of the project, Bobodi said the fault lay with the contractor for Phase 2, the DIGES Group, as they kept missing the deadlines. Bobodi then announced that they had terminated the DIGES Group’s services and that they were in the process of finalising specifications for the tender advertisement to appoint a new contractor to complete the outstanding work.
The managing director of DIGES Group, Mr Vincent Rambuwani, responded and vehemently denied the municipality’s accusations and provided information indicating that Mr Bobodi might have been economical with the truth. He said that they had done the work as per the stipulations in the contract, but that the municipality had directed them to wait for other sections to be completed first (by other contractors) before they could continue and finish what they were assigned to do.
“This is the municipality and the engineer’s fault. We were directed to wait for the completion of the grandstand before we could finalise the running tracks and so on. The material for the running track was procured and delivered to the municipal storeroom in June 2020, but because we could not proceed, the material has now expired and is not usable. The municipality insists on using expired materials without indemnifying us for any defects that may occur as a result of these expired materials,” he said.
Rambuwani confirmed that the contract value was R10.1 million, and that R7.5 million had already been spent. He said they were anticipating additional expenses for procuring the expired running-track materials and repairing the irrigation pipework that was damaged when the community had allegedly burnt the grass on the soccer pitch.
Ms Ivon Maranele, the chief liaison officer responsible for Phase 2, was also contacted to get her view on why the work is still incomplete. “I don’t know what really caused the long delay. My mandate was only to monitor local workers from our community,” she said.
In the meantime, Waterval residents remain without any form of a sports ground to practise and keep the youth busy, which has now driven them to the point where they are preparing a letter to the Makhado Municipality to demand answers about the stadium’s future.
One of the residents, Mr Douglas Mafanele, said a growing sense of despair was hanging over the community as they watched helplessly as some of the court fields were starting to deteriorate. “We are more than ready to step in and breathe life into the stadium ourselves, giving it a purpose and functionality that has been absent for too many years,” he said.
A detailed set of follow-up questions was sent to Bobodi, including inquiries about the timeline of Phase 2, the use of expired materials, and the claims of blame directed at the municipality and its engineer. He was also questioned about why the municipality had previously indicated in its annual report for 2020/21 that Phase 2 of the project had been completed, when it clearly had not been finished.
Bobodi’s short reply merely states: “The municipality stands by its previous response, and therefore, we cannot provide further comment on this particular issue.”
Date:04 November 2023
Thembi Siaga started as an intern during 2021. He assisted with video photography and editing. He also produced numerous small documentaries, focusing on the Vhembe region and its people. Currently he works as a freelance journalist, covering stories in the Elim area.
Thembi studied at the Tshwane University of Technology, where he completed his diploma in Journalism in 2021.