The unveiling of a R15m “state-of-the-art” sports facility with a patchy field, a broken goalpost and two steel grandstands has been met with scorn from local soccer teams, who described it as below par.
On Tuesday, the Enoch Mgijima municipality in Lesseyton, near Komani in the Eastern Cape, was at the centre of a public storm after the unveiling of the Lesseyton sports field on Monday, with the ribbon cutting ceremony and pictures posted on Facebook.
The facility and subsequent posts celebrating its handover garnered outrage with provincial co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Xolile Nqatha requesting a full report from the council into the matter.
The council is expected to explain how the R15m was spent when it hired Thalami Civils to do the work in August 2018. According to the municipal website the original tender had an initial budget of R22.7m. The ‘shabby ’ opening of Lesseyton sports facility in Eastern Cape.
Mzwabantu Vunjane, chair of Swallows FC, which is one of the 14 soccer teams in the area meant to use the sports facility, told Sowetan that the view of most teams is that the pitch is horrible.
“I’ve seen that stadium and if we were to use it at its current status, it won’t last for more than three months. It’s just brown patches of grass that have not mended together because they have not been getting water. We don’t even consider it a sports field because we have been playing on far better turfs than this,” said Vunjane.
“We feel like the politicians used us for their own gain because we don’t even know the people that were playing there during the cutting of the ribbon on Monday. We deserve a far better service than this.”
Vunjane said they were not consulted about construction of the field and said it needed further upgrading.
Residents in the area also called for an investigation and answers from their council as to where the millions budgeted for the construction of a sports facility went.
They also felt that there was no value for money in the R15m paid due to the below-par standard of the facility. Independent Komani Residents Association’s Zolile Xalisa called on law enforcement agencies to look at investigating the municipality.
Xalisa revealed that a tender award document dating back to August 2018 showed that the construction of the field had been approved at a cost of R22m.
Speaking to Sowetan’s sister publication, the Daily Dispatch, a furious Xalisa said: “We are stunned by the municipality’s R15m stadium announcement, which proves what we have always said about corruption in the municipality.
“The money that was supposed to be used was R22m as budgeted for, hence we want law enforcement to investigate everyone who was involved in the construction of the facility. If they are accounting for R15m, then where is the other budgeted R7m?”
Lungisani Sakati of Zimbani FC said the builder should have used artificial grass. “That place is just a fenced piece of gravel because the grass is of poor quality. We have not seen any security guard. They need to close it and upgrade it before they can hand it over to us. We can’t use it as it is,” Sakati said.
ANC councillor Unathi Mlindazwe said: “The facility will keep our children far from drugs or anything that could tarnish their future. We are hopeful that the sports field will produce the next sports stars.”
After the uproar the municipality released a statement claiming that their initial Facebook post did not have enough information.
The red-faced municipality justified the costs, saying it was because of the work such as blasting, earth works, water reticulation installation and sewer systems that had to be done to prepare the grounds. The municipality said it had also erected 780m of palisade fencing, two blocks of ablution facilities with 14 toilets and eight showers, boreholes and a guard house.
Municipal spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the council regretted the manner in which the initial post was shared where minimal detail was provided.
“Further investigations were also conducted to determine the suitability of the site to be developed into a sports field with associated structures – which include survey, geotechnical and geohydrological tests,” said Kowa.
The owner of the company behind the project, Luthando Jojwana, referred questions to the municipality when asked for comment. In 2017 Jojwana and four employees were arrested for stealing R9,000 worth of bricks in the Eastern Cape.
It is alleged that the business person took the bricks from a municipal site and used them to finish off a job where he was part of a joint venture, building Centane taxi trank.