Herbal project: R20m, 8 years, no conclusion

Chief David Nthabalala of Maila village walks around the unfinished buildings and building material still at the Maila Herbal Project, which according to the Department of Environmental Affairs has been completed and handed over.

LIMPOPO – The project was supposed to be completed in 2013, but work is continuing at a snail’s pace. But, according to the Department of Environmental Affairs the project was completed and handed over to the community.

The Maila Herbal Project was launched in August 2010 by the then Deputy Minister of the department, Rejoice Mabudafhasi, and it seems the project is turning out to be yet another white elephant with incomplete structures on the brink of collapse.

The aim of the project was to draw attention to the need for development in the area and to promote and protect the natural and biological resources in the area.

The project comprised the establishment of a nursery, laboratory, guard house, medicinal plant garden and research centre.

The medicinal plants at the centre would have been used to treat ailments such as coughs, headaches, fever, constipation and high blood pressure. The 140-hectare area was also to be protected by a fence.

A private company was appointed by the Department of Environmental Affairs to implement the project. In 2013, more than 200 workers at the project went on strike after allegedly not being paid for two months. When CV visited the area, we found uncompleted buildings and an unfinished fence as well as bushes overgrowing the area and electricity cables laying across the ground. When asked about the state of the facilities, the department said it had handed over the project to Thovhele Vho-Vhutshilo Nthabalala on 28 July last year but the project was still incomplete.

Chief David Nthabalala of Maila village said the community and various structures had supported the project because they thought it would make people’s lives better.

Chief David Nthabalala of Maila village wants answers from the Department of Environmental Affairs on why the Maila Herbal Project is still not completed.

He said the project would have been of great benefit to the community.

Nthabalala added the community blamed the delays to finish the project on the department.

“They built and erected a fence but these are just decorations in the village (to fool) the passers-by,” Nthabalala said.

“They promised to finish the job a long time ago but we are still waiting. We are not even sure whether they will honour their promises this time.” He accused the government of wasting taxpayers’ money and the department for not properly monitoring the project.

He added the people of Maila are upset about the delay in completing the project. “We want to know why there is a delay in the project in our village,” said Nthabalala. “Where is the money which was budgeted for the project?” he asked.

When asked about the time span within which the project should have been completed, Nthabalala said it had been agreed that it should have been completed in a period not exceeding three years. “The government officials have never come to this area, so how will they know about our problems? The people regard themselves as forgotten and feel the promises made to them have not been honoured,” he said.

The Chief Director of Communications at the Department of Environmental Affairs, Albi Modise, responded to the question stating: “The community can now utilise the project as it had been completed and handed over”.

Modise said the only outstanding issue with the project was the electricity connection to the borehole.

“The implementing agent’s electrical consultant is working with an Eskom official (Mr Dagada) to resolve the challenge at hand,” Modise added.

To prove that the project was finished, Modise sent through the project completion and handover certificate to CV.

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  AUTHOR
Dovhani Nengovhela

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