by Luke Daniel for Business Insider SA
A swimming pool complex in the suburb of Ivory Park, in Midrand north of Johannesburg, is nearing completion, a decade after it was first touted and at a cost of at least R43 million.
The Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex, with its “Olympic-style” swimming pool, splash pool, and pavilion, aims to improve the quality of life for residents of the densely-populated suburb.
“The swimming pool complex will offer a range of uses and choices to people who live, play, learn, share, socialise, and visit it,” said Ronald Harris, member of Johannesburg’s mayoral committee for community development in a recent statement on the project’s progress.
But its construction has been marred by delays and mired in controversy.
Mentions of the “new swimming pool and community centre” in the area stretch back to 2012, when it was officially listed as a community development project within the City of Johannesburg’s medium-term revenue and expenditure budget.
At the time, R1 million was allocated to the project, which is due to start in 2014/2015.
The Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex was again mentioned in the City of Johannesburg’s 2013/2014 medium-term capital budget, but, this time, the allocation had grown to R2.5 million, and its start date had been pushed back by a year.
In 2015, the project’s allocated budget had ballooned to more than R14 million. Ivory Park’s pool was also expected to be completed in 2017, two years beyond its initial deadline.
In 2016, the Ivory Park swimming pool was again referenced in the City of Johannesburg’s budget, this time with a new project number and at the top of the list of community development initiatives within sport and recreation. Its budget also increased by another R1 million, but still with the same 2017 deadline as before.
The City of Johannesburg, in August 2017, proudly announced via Twitter that the Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex was “expected to be fully functioning by November this year” – being 2017.
But by 2018, construction on the Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex had ground to a complete halt, with half-finished foundations and sparse concrete pillars drawing concerns from the community.
“We really apologise to the residents of Ivory Park for the delay of the swimming pool,” said Kepi Madumo, the then executive director of the community development department in the City of Johannesburg, to Bongani Bingwa during a 702 radio interview in October 2018.
“It’s taken longer than anticipated primarily because there is a dispute between the main contractor and the subcontractor.”
Litigation involving the contractors forced the project to a standstill, said Madumo, adding that the City of Johannesburg had, as a result of certain allegations, instituted its “own internal investigation”.
By that time, the City of Johannesburg had already spent R14 million on the project, with little to show for it. Madumo said that the R14 million already spent was “primarily for the design and partial construction”, adding that the total budget for the 18-month project was R20 million.
This amount is confirmed by the City of Johannesburg’s 2018/2019 medium-term budget. The community development department eventually appointed the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA), which manages and facilitates infrastructure developments within the city, to complete the Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex.
“Indeed, there was communication from the City’s community development department to start the project in 2017, however issues on the project led to the community development department appointing the JDA, which broke ground on the project in September 2019, to undertake the construction,” the JDA told Business Insider SA.
“The JDA was allocated a budget of R42 million to implement the facility.”
Construction was further hampered by the Covid-19 pandemic, which struck South Africa in March 2020, mere months after the JDA had begun work on the swimming pool complex.
The JDA, in a statement issued on 15 July 2022, said that the new Ivory Park pool was “taking shape for the swimming season” and confirmed that the “final” cost of the project was R43 million, R1 million more than what the agency told Business Insider in response to questions around the project and more than double what Madumo cited in 2018.
“Kindly note that the JDA is the implementing agent of this project and cannot comment on a date for opening the facility,” the agency told Business Insider in response to questions about when the construction will be completed.
“The project has reached practical completion and is due to be handed over to the community development department, following the finalisation of snags. The City’s community development department will determine a date for the opening of the facility.”
Once completed, the Ivory Park Swimming Pool Complex will feature a parking area, pump room, main swimming pool, kids swimming pool, staff quarters, a guard house, change rooms, offices, an attenuation pond, and a pavilion. The complex will also feature solar panels for water heating, water tanks for water harvesting, greywater recycling and a waterless toilets system, according to the JDA.
“The completion of the Ivory Park swimming pool will be another example of the JDA applying its principle of creating great spaces and robust democratic public spaces that give dignity and choice to city users,” said the City’s member of the mayoral committee for development planning, Belinda Echeozonjoku.
“This project also aligns with the JDA’s objective to deliver sustainable social and economic infrastructure projects efficiently, effectively, and economically.”
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