Saturday, 23 October 2010

Is there water in Dixie?


Recently there has been a great deal of confusion about whether or not there is any water flowing in Dixie, whether or not the viewers were given credit for their donations and efforts in raising money for the 'water for Dixie' project on Bush Warriors Blog in a July 2010 article, how much money was left over after the purchase and installation of the pump earlier this year and where that money was being kept. This Blog is an attempt to try and clarify all of this ...

Before I begin I want to state that WE, and Emily and I (Graham Wallington) in particular, did not handle any of this well. We first did two simple, quick and visual projects where we raised a little money. WE took the kids from Dixie to a film in Nelspruit and recorded the whole experience. Then we raised a little more money and gave all the kids Christmas presents and gave the whole village a Christmas lunch which WE broadcast LIVE. These projects were highly successful in every way, and this success made us quite confident ... maybe a bit over confident.

So we decided to take on the much larger project of providing the whole village (about 300 homes) with fresh running water. As many of you know, this village does not have the kind of reticulated water service to the home that we all take for granted. They are forced to make do with a few 'stand pipes' in the village which are unreliable at best. WE entered the Amazee race and came second and third which entitled us to a $5,000 donation. The effort by our audience to get as many members of our Amazee project as possible was nothing short of miraculous. People all over the world worked tirelessly around the night to get their friends and families to join the project. Although we did not win first prize it was an amazing achievement.

In addition some $1,130 was donated directly by the audience. Now while this is not an insignificant amount of money it is far from enough to supply fresh running water to every home in Dixie. We always knew this, and set about trying to raise much more money, knowing that it could not come from our audience. A large NGO was approached, who 'do' these kind of projects, and they indicated that they would be able to raise the necessary funds fairly easily after we had done two things: (1) gotten permission from all the stakeholders, and (2) a thorough and accurate costing of the project. They also made it clear that they would not get involved in any project that any element of corruption involved. So if we needed to bribe anybody to get the permissions then they could not be involved. Very understandable, I think.

Well of course it was not difficult to get permission from the Dixie community (represented by the Dixie Community Forum), after all they are the people who need the water project to happen. The municipality, while not very well organized, have no reason to withhold permission and after all this project should really be their responsibility. However, the chief, a Mr. Hosni Mnisi, of the area under which Dixie finds itself, simply does not provide his all important permission to any project unless there is 'something in it for him'. There is actually far more to this story, which is the subject on an entire book about the traditional leadership of South Africa.

In any event we now found ourselves in a quandary. We spent some months trying to negotiate our way around this problem, but it could not be done. Not only because he wants his 'share', but also because he hates Rexon with a passion, because Rexon successfully won a high court case several years before preventing this man from disposing of Dixie land for his own benefit. So our association with Rexon, by virtue of the fact that he worked for us, made it even harder.

So we had no choice but to find somebody else to try and get this permission. We turned to the Buffelshoek Trust. With whom, it was agreed, we would work if they were (a) able to get the necessary permissions that we could not, and (b) chose to involve themselves with this project. Some 6 months or so after our initial meeting they sent through a letter from the Dixie Community Forum granting permission to the 'water for Dixie' project. Of course this permission was 'not enough' and although I have not spoken to the Buffelshoek Trust recently, I can only assume that they have not been able to get the chiefs unconditional support.

Then the pump broke at Dixie!! This meant that there was no water at all. So the municipality began to send water bowzers (truckloads of water) to the village and promised to fix the pump. Those promises did not materialize and the bowzers were late and irregular. The people were suffering, and yet we had the $6,130 available specifically to provide water ... something had to be done. So Emily and Rex got to work. Please read Emily's Blog all about what happened, and how some of the money was spent.

Although no long term decisions were taken after the pump was put in and water was flowing in Dixie, we did kind of decide that the best use of this money was to just keep on maintaining the status quo while we tried to figure out how to get the full project back on track. In the meantime Rexon was fighting a complex and incredibly important battle to wrestle control of the land from the traditional leader (the chief) and into the hands of the people. This convoluted and complex story, which I still do not fully understand and is certainly a subject of a book, culminated in a constitutional court decision. It's possible, but by no means certain, that this decision could result in a constitutional amendment which would remove any power of the traditional leaders over the land. In turn this might mean that the only permission that is required to get the 'water for Dixie' project back on track would be the municipality and the Dixie community. We are awaiting clarity on this and will share that clarity when we have it.

There have been some rumors that the water was not flowing in Dixie at the moment. I can confirm that as of yesterday morning there was water at the few stand pipes in Dixie in which there has been water over the past few years. There are some broken pipes, which connect a few other stand pipes, but these pipes have been broken for some years now. However, the diesel necessary to run the pump, that we replaced earlier in the year, is unreliably supplied by the municipality. Therefore sometimes the pump does not run because there is no diesel to run it. (Yesterday there was 20 liters of diesel at the pump). At least part of the problem is that there is no safe place to store the diesel, to make sure that it is only used for the pump and not for any personal uses. There is a small concrete building where the diesel used to be stored, but the lock on this building has gone, and the door broken off. 

I have agreed with Rex that the remaining money will be used to try and keep the water flowing in Dixie, while we try to understand the implications of the recent constitutional court decision. In the short term we are going to replace the door and lock on the small 'diesel house', and then buy some diesel as and when the municipality don't deliver. There are some real risks here. One of which is committing to making sure that come what may we will make sure that there is always diesel in the house. You can imagine that a 'bottomless barrel of diesel' risks being abused, and soon the money would run out. And that money was meant to supply water to the people not diesel to individuals. So a careful approach to this is required.

The important thing is that the money raised for the 'water for Dixie' project will all be spent on keeping the water flowing in Dixie.

In summary I would like to say that I have made mistakes. I apologize to you, the donors, for not accounting better, both in terms of the finances and in terms of the progress of this project. I have also learned some lessons. Firstly, that WE are not an NGO. We do not know how to be an NGO, and cannot become one, but WE must help the communities that share the land WE all enjoy so much. Secondly, it is better to not hold back anything, no matter how sensitive you think that information is, because some people are suspicious when you do not share everything you know. This seems to be seriously worsened when there are private donors concerned, and I completely understand that.

Written by Graham Wallington

Money raised for 'Water for Dixie'

It has been brought to my attention that many of you are concerned about the money raised in donations for the 'Water for Dixie' project. Many of you will remember that we won $5000 from Amazee for this project and on top of that our viewers raised $1130, so altogether $6130. Once again thank you to all those people that contributed to this, it was a fantastic effort and something that you should all be proud of.

WE planned to use this money to get water into each and every home in the village (approx 300 homes). Once we had finished raising the money we drew up plans and looked into the cost of this and realised that a proper water reticulation system to every home in the village was going to cost in excess of $30,000. It was a mistake on WE's behalf. We should have drawn up these plans in advance of raising the money and made it very clear to our donors that unless we raised this money ($30,000) then we would need to work with another body to get to this amount. Graham then set about talking to people such as the Buffelshoek Trust and a large NGO to help with this. After many discussions with them WE realised that they could not and would not move forward on this without the relevant permissions in place. This would take time as there are a lot of politics within the community that needed to be resolved. Grahams blog explains more about this and also what has been done in trying to sort this out.

What I want to communicate to you in this blog is what has happened to the money that was raised by yourselves and by Amazee whilst these problems within the village have been being resolved. As many of you know in May of this year the old pump that has been supplying water to the village of Dixie for many years broke. Now this pump did not give each and every household water to their stand but it did provide water to a number of taps around the village which people could go to and collect water for use within their house. So as you can imagine this was absolutely awful. They did not have drinking water, cooking water, bathing water........nothing at all. WE knew we had to do something and so decided to use some of the money that was donated to make sure that the village of Dixie had access to water again.

Rexon and I set about sourcing a new pump. I spent many many days on the phone to Rex, the water department and suppliers to try and work out what was wrong and what was needed to resolve the problem. Rex finally managed to get someone from the water department, apparently someone who knew a lot about these old mono pumps and together they went to various suppliers to see if they could get a new one. They believed that the pump that was needed was a Mono pump BP30H. We were told by the suppliers that this needed to be especially manufactured for us in Johannesburg and sent to Mpumulanga. I can't remember exactly how long this took but I think it was around two weeks. Laeveld Bou (supplier in Hoedspruit) finally delivered it to Djuma which is where it was stored for a few days until Chris Dreyer could come and put it in the ground. Chris Dreyer has a company called 'The Drain Surgeon' and he lives in Hoedspruit and does a lot of building work at lodges within the Sabi Sands. He is well respected in the area and happens to know a huge amount about pumps. He arrived at the site and quickly realised we had the wrong pump. It was too big and too strong and although we still needed a mono pump, a smaller one was necessary. As you can imagine Rexon and I were devastated. We had spent a long time sourcing the first one and it had been made especially for this purpose and now it was useless. Whilst Chris Dreyer set about sourcing a new one I contacted Laeveld Bou to see if we could have our money back.

Within a week Chris had fitted the new pump (I am not sure what the spec is on this one but I have contacted Chris and will update you as soon as he phones me back) and new pipes that had been broken and the water was flowing again. Eventually after about a month WE received most of the money back from the first pump but not all of it.

Once again thanks to absolutely everyone who made this possible. It was a real crisis when the community had no access to water at all and so your money saved this situation and got the water to the taps again. Below is a break down of money received and money spent so far. I would like to apologise that we have not done this earlier. Communication has not been as it should be and from now on WE will publish every cent that gets spent on keeping the water flowing in Dixie.

Money raised
$6130
Money spent
Mono pump(BP30H) - R15912.15
Chris Dreyer invoice:-
Mono pump - R6578.95
Cost of installing bore hole pump including all pipes, fittings, labour and travel costs - R8333.33
VAT - R2087.72
Money back
Money back on pump (BP30H) = R13500.06 (received from Laeveld Bou).

Total spent - R15912.15 + R6578.95 + R8333.33 + R2087.72 = R32912.15
Total spent after money back from pump - R32912.15 - R13500.06 (money back from pump) = R19412.09
Total spent in USD - R19412.09 = $2791.45

Money left over - $6130 (money raised) - $2791.45 (money spent) = $3338.55

The money left is $3338.55.

Written by Emily Wallington