Tweeters get salty over Maimane desalination cost claims

25 January 2018 - 11:09 By Petru Saal
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Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane.
Leader of the Democratic Alliance (DA) Mmusi Maimane.

Outspoken businesswoman Magda Wierzycka has challenged DA leader Mmusi Maimane’s claim that a large-scale desalination plant would cost up to R15 billion.

Maimane on Wednesday mentioned the prohibitive cost of desalination at a press conference‚ where he highlighted plans to avoid the possibility of a Day Zero in the city.

Wierzycka‚ chief executive officer of Sygnia‚ set in motion a lively debate when she joined a discussion on Wednesday afternoon about the cost of desalination on Twitter.

Maimane‚ who earlier indicated that the cost of desalination would be 30% of the city’s budget‚ was challenged by one observer who pointed out: “The capital expenditure of such a venture would be spread out over time and wouldn’t be hit in a single year. Why are you lying Mr. Maimane.”


Maimane responded with a tweet‚ saying: “I said that desalination is expensive. Large scale facilities cost up to R15 billion (which is 1/3 of CPT's annual budget). No city can afford such facilities on its own. Especially when their provision is outside its legal mandate. Assistance would need to come from nat. govt.”

The thread set in motion a robust debate‚ with some defending Maimane and others suggesting the installation of smaller desalination plants.

Wierzycka’s response to Maimane’s explanation was: “I was quoted 120 million euros for a plant that would supply 100,000,000 l per day. 11 months to construct. That is R1.8bn. Double that for unexpected expenditure. SAA bail out was R10bn. Please stop lying to us.”

Andre de Wet tweeted his response: “The @Our_DA‚ @helenzille and @MmusiMaimane are busy with the biggest own goal of all time. If @MYANC and @CyrilRamaphosa step in and save this thing in some way shape or form‚ 2019 is going to be very very interesting...”

Former tourism minister Derek Hanekom suggested that Wierzycka should become premier of the drought-stricken province‚ or at least mayor of Cape Town.

“I am a business person. Trained to solve problems. No political aspirations whatsoever. But I care about Cape Town‚” replied Wierzycka.

She said the city needed a permanent solution to its water crisis. “We need basic level solution. Funded by issuing municipal bonds. I am sure there are multiple answers and solutions. The problem is time. Drought is not going away. Neither is climate change. Or population growth.”

DA spokesperson Phumzile van Damme launched a counter-strike with a tweet on Thursday‚ accusing Wierzycka of “spreading disinformation and panic during a serious crisis”.

She flagged a tweet that pointed out that a large-scale plant to supply the city properly was eight to 12 times the daily volume mentioned by Wierzycka.

“I see @Magda_Wierzycka has not responded to this. Facts matter‚” she said.

Wierzycka has been an outspoken critic of corruption and corporate shenanigans.

Her condemnation of state capture on Twitter has led to run-ins with Gupta family backer Mzwanele Manyi‚ who called her a racist and asked whether‚ because of her Polish origins‚ she was related to Janusz Walus‚ assassin of SACP leader Chris Hani. She also received death threats‚ reported the Sunday Times at the weekend.

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