It’s not the whole picture: E Cape municipality defends R15m stadium

Images of the multimillion-rand project infuriated South Africans who felt the outcomes did not match the budget

05 October 2021 - 16:52


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The Lesseyton Sports Facility was opened on Monday.
WITNESSES The Lesseyton Sports Facility was opened on Monday.
Image: Supplied

The glorious peaks of the Eastern Cape mountains provide a spectacular backdrop to the Lesseyton Sports Facility in the Enoch Mgijima municipality, but the price tag for the newly opened project is anything but beautiful.

The backlash was instant when images of the stadium, near Komani (formerly Queenstown), were posted on social media, showing a dry, bumpy field, small metal stands, and soccer and rugby uprights. But it wasn’t so much the facility that elicited the anger but the cost — R15m.  

And while the municipality has defended the project, Eastern Cape cooperative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) MEC Xolile Nqatha demanded answers.

“I fully understand the negative commentary and public comments on the matter. We have requested the leadership of Enoch Mgijima local municipality to get all the facts about the scope of work for the project and what has been delivered so far,” he said in a statement, saying his office expected a full report before the end of the week.

The Lesseyton Sports Facility was officially opened on Monday.
The Lesseyton Sports Facility was officially opened on Monday.
Image: Supplied@Facebook

The Chris Hani District municipality — under which the Enoch Mgijima local council falls — has also expressed concern.

Spokesperson Buli Ganyaza said district mayor Wongama Gela would be taking up the matter with the local municipality.

But Enoch Mgijima municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa said the project was justified, and that the council had made a significant investment in the rural village to support sport activities in the area.

The R15m costs were not just for what was seen in the pictures that were circulating, said Kowa. Not only were there construction-related expenses but also initial “survey, geotechnical and geohydrological tests” to determine if the site was actually suitable as a sports facility.

Then, said Kowa, came the building expenses for the facility itself — after the erection of 780m of palisade fencing.

According to the council, the project entailed:

  • “Construction of rugby and soccer field (site clearing, layering of grounds)”;
  • “Rock blasting  — undertaken as the area comprised mainly of hard rock which had to be removed to allow for construction”;
  • “Earth works — excavation and levelling of grounds”;
  • “Layer works — G5 imported subbase layer, 13mm crushed stone, which is 75mm thick, top soil and transplanting of kikuyu grass”;
  • “Athletics track — grassed track — layers of crush stone, drainage system to ensure its viability”;
  • “Ablution facilities (two blocks) — construction of 14 toilets and eight showers”;
  • “Change rooms — showers and benches”;
  • “Borehole drilling, equipping and water reticulation installation”;
  • “Rainwater catchment tank, high-rise water main tank”;
  • “Sewerage system with septic tank”; and
  • “Electrical installation, guardhouse and steel grandstands.” 

Kowa said: “This [project] is aimed at providing the community, especially youth, with a facility that will serve as a suitable playing ground to benefit over six villages. The community has a rich history in sport and has also produced a professional soccer player which the municipality prides itself of.”

The municipality said it was aware of concerns from members of the public.

“The municipality regrets the manner in which the initial post was shared where minimal detail was provided. The construction of the sports facility commenced at the beginning of March 2020 after an environmental impact assessment (EIA) approved by DEDEAT [department of economic development, environmental affairs and tourism] authorising the project within the limits stated in the NEMA [National Environment Management] Act,” said Kowa.

On social media, however, South Africans expressed disbelief at the costs and questioned whether the money could have been better spent.

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