DA to question award of UXO contract


The Democratic Alliance is to question the award of a R107.8 million unexploded ordnance (UXO) clearance contact to a company allegedly not experienced in the field.

The Star newspaper earlier this month reported that The Origin Exchange had won a bid in the face of a rival joint tender by UXO specialists MineTech International and Mechem, the latter a subsidiary of state arsenal Denel.

The paper added the latter two companies have “well-established track records” in the UXO field and “are believed to have put in a joint bid for the contract that was considerably lower than The Origin Exchange’s winning bid.”

The land in question is believed to be two former Special Forces training areas, Hellsgate in northern KwaZulu-Natal and the Madimbo corridor near Musina.

Both areas are subject to land claims and due to be handed back to communities dispossessed during the Apartheid era.

The Department of Defence issued the tender in March and awarded the contract in August.

According to the brief, the work involves “cleaning up of land contaminated with unexploded ordnance and/or armament chemicals for a period of two years”.

The tender required the winning bidder to have a proven track record of at least five years and to be able to run the contract for several months before getting any payment.

In its report The Star noted that three ordinance removal experts had told it they had never heard of The Origin Exchange, whose directors are said to be KwaZulu-Natal rugby player Rudi Urbach, Joburg businesswoman Busisiwe Pietersen and a Martin Madlala.

Urbach and Pietersen declined to comment about the contract. Urbach would also not respond to questions about his experience in armaments work. Madlala could not be contacted. The Department of Defence said it would comment later.

Demilitarisation lobby group Ceasefire Campaign says it is pleased the land is being rehabilitated for reoccupation.

“Of concern, however, is that the DoD is said to be paying a company with no experience in this … to clear … the land…”

“It is not necessary to be a rocket scientist to know that clearing explosives – especially scattered, random explosives – is an extremely dangerous and risky affair.

“That is why the work is usually done by specially trained and equipped operators, guided by skilled managers.

“There is no need to entrust this task to an unknown company that has such vague connections and credentials.

“Doing so is incredibly irresponsible when there are two ordnance removal companies with well-established track records available.”