GTFM and Mphaphuli Consulting to battle it out in the high court

Operation Mabone's equipment simply lies at the Praktiseer site.

BURGERSFORT – Chances of local villages being electrified before the end of the year, look slim.

This is because the Greater Tubatse Fetakgomo Municipality (GTFM) and the Operation Mabone contractor, Mr Lufuno Mphaphuli of Mphaphuli Consulting, are involved in a legal battle at the South African High Court (Polokwane division).

GTFM argues that Mphaphuli Consulting needs to finish electrifying the villages while the contractor alleges that the municipality failed to comply to payment agreements.

The newspaper has a copy of the recommendations made by GTFM’s executive committee (Exco) on October 7, regarding the problem. According to the report, Exco recommended to the council that it seek the services of Eskom to electrify three villages on the addendum, namely Tswelopele Park, Bothashoek and Mashifane Park. “This is Eskom’s mandate and the pressure will be withdrawn from the municipality to concentrate on its core responsibilities,” it read.

The Exco went on to recommend that GTFM consider cancelling the main contract with Mphaphuli and the addendum.

“It is not yet known if the municipality will get rid of Mphaphuli Consulting as millions of rand have already been paid to the contractor while the job is far from being completed. According to the court papers filed by Mphaphuli’s legal team, GTFM has consistently payed the contractor late, and there was still money owed to the contractor. This has allegedly resulted in the contractor owing his subcontractors – such as Voltex and Medz – money.

“There is a grave risk that the applicant (Mphaphuli) will be liquidated in the near future if the respondent (GTFM) does not comply with the payment obligations,” the documents stated.

A reliable source close to Mphaphuli Consulting indicated that the company felt the chopping and changing of the municipality managers, chief financial officers and the technical directors at GTFM was a concern and a major factor in derailed payments.

Steelburger/Lydenburg News learned that the National Treasury in 2014 approved that GTFM, with the help of Eskom and the Department of Energy, continue with Operation Mabone without the contractor. National Treasury was startled to learn that the municipality ignored its advise and proceeded with the contractor.

According to the documents from the Exco, only eight villages from the 24 have been powered through the initiative. The villages that received electricity were Malaeneng, Pidima, Matokomane, Sekopung, Mountain View, Vodaville, Makofane and France. The number of houses powered is 4 625 while 9 388 homes are without lights. The operation is valued at a whopping R326 million. More than R200 million had already been paid to the contractor. At the time of going to press the paper could not confirm the exact court date.

 

Since 2011 Operation Mabone aimed at electrifying 24 villages. The actual implementation only started in May 2014 as results of negotiations between the Department of Energy, National Treasury, GTFM and Mphaphuli Consulting to finalise the funding were successful. The project was never tendered as the initial plan was that the contractor would electrify the households with his own capital and then claimed from government. It is alleged that the decision was reversed and the contractor demanded payment before starting the work.

The project suffered its first setback in October 2014 due to unpaid funds. In April 2015 the operation was relaunched again at Hannah Lodge with the stakeholders vowing they would achieve their aim of electrifying the villages. During the relaunch, it was announced that by September 2015, all the villages in Tubatse would have power. More than a year after the agreed deadline, the contractor has disappeared from all of the sites. The dreams of locals to have their homes electrified look to be dashed. According to the statistics released by the Department of Energy, in 2013 the total backlog of houses in need of electricity in Tubatse was more than 20 000. Statistics have shown that Limpopo has the greatest backlog in supplying electricity to households.

  AUTHOR
Gilbert Motseo

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