Address by His Excellency, President Jacob Zuma on the occasion of the sod turning and launch of the Mzimvubu Water Project, Tsolo Junction, Eastern Cape

11 Apr 2014

Minister of Water Affairs, Minister Edna Molewa
The Premier of the Eastern Cape province, Ms Noxolo Kiviet
Minister of Economic Development, Mr Ebrahim Patel
Minister of Public Works, Mr Thulas Nxesi,
MECs, Executive Mayors, Mayors and Councillors
Chairpersons and CEOs of State Owned Enterprises
Amakhosi
Religious Leaders
Members of the community
Ladies and gentlemen.

Let me take this opportunity to thank you most sincerely for hosting us in your beautiful province to kick start yet another exciting infrastructure development program in our country, The Mzimvubu Water Project.

You will recall that this is a culmination of an announcement we made in the State of the Nation Address of 2012 where we indicated that as part of our infrastructure plan, we aimed to build a dam in this part of our country using the Umzimvubu River as the source.

One of our Strategic Integrated Projects, number 18, focuses on delivery of water and sanitation to all in South Africa, which makes it important to prioritise water infrastructure as well.

We have to work to eliminate water supply and sanitation backlogs by providing new infrastructure, rehabilitating existing one and improving on how we maintain the infrastructure.

We have to be steadfast as government in implementing the pledges we made to our people to improve their lives and I am pleased that so far we have not reneged from these commitments.

I am excited to report to you that our presence here today, and the official sod turning we performed earlier serve as testimony to the sterling work we have committed ourselves to as government.

Ladies and gentlemen,

This project entails the building of two dams, one in Ntabelanga on the Tsitsa River, which will be used for domestic and agricultural water supply requirements.

The Ntabelanga dam will store approximately 490 million cubic meters of water and once completed, it will become the tenth largest dam in South Africa.

The Ntabelanga dam, we learn, is also strategically placed for a possible supply to the Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and the Orange/Vaal River System in the longer term.

The other one is the Laleni dam which will be used for hydro power generation.

This dam has potential to generate 35 megawatts of base power or up to 180 megawatts of peaking power when operated jointly with the Ntabelanga Dam.

About 18.5 kilometres of power lines will be erected to feed the power onto the national power grid.

The investment that government will put to the entire program amounts to over R12.45 billion.

This entails the building of the two dams, a hydropower plant at Laleni, bulk water distribution infrastructure and infield irrigation developments in the area.

It is important that this project also addresses one of the priorities of government, which is the much needed job creation, particularly in this province which does not have a strong industrial base as other provinces such as Gauteng for example.

The project is expected to create about 6 700 jobs per annum during the construction phase and 6 500 jobs per annum during the operational phase.

This I believe will also benefit local people immensely.

Fellow South Africans

This indeed adds to the many good stories that our government continues to tell to the citizens of this country.

Stories born from the commitments and hard work of our democratic government over just twenty years, whose major focus and objective is to lift the majority of our people out of abject poverty, to build the economy and change the lives of our people for the better.

The good story of our new infrastructure build program and the water sector infrastructure in particular is truly a story that we must celebrate.

In the past few months, we have traversed the length and breadth of the country unveiling new water projects and launching new dams and other major infrastructure.

This is to augment the water supply and indeed to keep the taps running, especially to the poor communities who previously never had access to this precious basic resource.

We recommit ourselves as a democratic government to continue this good work in order to reach even the remotest parts of our country including this area of the former Transkei which still experiences huge infrastructure challenges.

The development of this Mzimvubu catchment will indeed accelerate the social and economic upliftment of the communities in this region.

In addition to the additional water storage capacity and supply for domestic and industrial purposes, the project will ensure economic growth through the supply of water for agricultural irrigation and hydropower generation.

The three districts, OR Tambo, Alfred Nzo and Joe Gqabi will all benefit from this massive project which aims to serve in excess of 720 000 households in domestic water supply.

This is an important part of our efforts at equity and distribution , ensuring that we increase on the 95.2% people who now have access to clean water.

A central water treatment works with a bulk distribution program will form the cornerstone of the water network in this area and will be used as a hub to develop much needed skills in the region.

As I have indicated earlier, this project forms part of the Strategic Integrated Projects of government.

As such it will receive the highest priority in terms of investment and speedy delivery alongside other such projects around the country.

Accordingly, we are delighted to report that a detailed design of the Ntabelanga Dam and associated works and infrastructure is currently underway and is expected to be completed by June of 2014.

The actual construction of the dam and associated works and infrastructure is expected to commence in November this year, and to be completed by February of 2018.

This will be followed by an intensive construction of bulk water conveyance infrastructure, the infield farming infrastructure and the building of the Laleni hydro power scheme in 2016/17.

We expect the first water delivery to be realised early 2018.

Compatriots

There is a unique and exciting development with regard to the plans of building this water infrastructure.

For the first time in the history of infrastructure development in the country and indeed the continent and the world, our government, through its provincial and national environment departments, have embarked on a catchment rehabilitation program as a precursor to the dam projects.

An extensive catchment management programme, similar to Working for Water, started in February of this year, aimed at improving catchment land use, reduction of soil erosion and sedimentation into the newly built Ntabelanga and Laleni dams.

This program also includes the clearing of invasive alien plants and the restoration of dongas and denuded land.

In addition to managing the environment for greater results in the building and performance of the water infrastructure, these catchment rehabilitation programs also play a big role in poverty alleviation as they create much needed jobs for the locals.

The alien invasive clearing programme has already created employment opportunities for 370 people in the area.

Therefore a closer look at this dam project illustrates clearly that it has many multipliers for creating employment opportunities and other socio-economic benefits.

For example, this water value chain includes dam building, catchment rehabilitation and removal of alien plants, agricultural irrigation, hydro power generation, water treatment and water conveyance, all of which provide job opportunities and can spur more economic prospects.

In conclusion, compatriots, we are therefore indeed excited about these developments, which form the bedrock of social and economic development for our people, particularly in this province.

This is the good story which we will through our collective work and dedication to our people keep alive.

Our government will indeed not rest until all our people have access to decent shelter, water and food.

And please go and vote during the elections on the 7th of May, for these achievements to be consolidated.

I thank you.