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‘500 years’ to fix crumbling infrastructure

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The Premier of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, has come under fire for being “dismissive” of the city’s endless infrastructure and service delivery problems during a recent interview with Carte Blanche.

Premier Zamani Saul. File picture

THE PREMIER of the Northern Cape, Dr Zamani Saul, has come under fire for being “dismissive” of the city’s endless infrastructure and service delivery problems during a recent interview with Carte Blanche.

During the interview, Saul remarked that “you could even need 500 years” to upgrade the city’s ailing infrastructure – where sewage is overflowing in the streets, including the street outside his home.

He added that the smell of sewage that permeated the air was the price paid for connecting previously disadvantaged communities to bulk infrastructure services.

“The sewerage pipeline was designed in 1947 for 16,000 white households. Provincial government is currently providing decent sanitation and clean running water to 72,000 coloured and black households in Kimberley,” said Saul.

“This is a problem confronted by all metro municipalities [providing services] on a large scale to previously disadvantaged individuals.”

He indicated that Sol Plaatje Municipality had received R2.5 billion from the National Treasury and that it was “hard at work” to improve bulk sewerage and water networks.

Saul also took to his X (formerly Twitter) account to express his “deep disgust” during the interview over “suggestions that sewage spills and water leakages were only supposed to happen in black communities, such as Galeshewe”.

Cope acting national chairperson Pakes Dikgetsi described Saul’s “emotional outburst” as being a “shocking racist tirade” that was unleashed on the journalist, who had “exposed the decay of crumbling infrastructure and broken promises”.

“To blame ‘racism’ and ‘whiteness’ for the glaring failures is a far stretch. His ludicrous response that we ‘need 500 years to fix the collapsing infrastructure’ is a testament to the fact that he doesn’t understand the gravity of the disastrous situation that negatively impacts health, the environment and the economy,” said Dikgetsi.

He urged the premier to apologise to the journalist who was “black”.

“Fundamentally, race has nothing to do with leaders being held accountable by the media. The premier must withdraw the racist slur and unconditionally withdraw the unwarranted attack,” Dikgetsi said.

The spokesperson for the premier, Bronwyn Thomas-Abrahams, stated that the recent Carte Blanche interview painted a “very negative report on a bedrock of sensation and misconceptions” where an “illusion was created of a non-functioning municipality”.

“During the interview, Premier Saul explained in detail the context of the service delivery challenges faced by the municipality due to upgrading and expanding apartheid spatial planning,” said Thomas-Abrahams.

She indicated that service delivery had improved over the past 30 years, with resources being directed to repairing ailing infrastructure and upgrading infrastructure to provide access to basic services for previously disadvantaged individuals.

“Not even the Covid-19 pandemic hampered the vision of the Northern Cape provincial government to improve the lives of the people of the Province. Since 2019, this administration has consistently shown economic growth, access to jobs and increased service delivery.

“As indicated in the Stats SA census report of 2022, water provision stands at 95.8 percent, electricity provision at 92.5 percent, sanitation at 80 percent, housing at 85.9 percent and refuse removal at 72 percent.”

Thomas-Abrahams pointed out that the premier had acknowledged challenges relating to backlogs in the maintenance of ageing and inadequate infrastructure.

“Plans are in place to correct this. Over the years, the municipality was faced with an inadequate budget that hindered its ability to properly maintain, repair or refurbish its water infrastructure through a R2.5 million grant from the National Treasury.”

She added that the Department of Water and Sanitation was reviewing business plans submitted by the municipality for the refurbishment of the Homevale wastewater treatment works, for the approval of the repair costs.

“The municipality has rolled out a massive pothole repair project and work is continuing in this regard.”

ANC provincial secretary Deshi Ngxanga dismissed Cope’s “flimsy attempt to resuscitate itself”.

“The party’s last surviving actor, Pakes Dikgetsi, is attempting to fashion himself as a defender of media freedom,” said Ngxanga.

He added that when Dikgetsi was the MEC for Finance and Economic Development, he had chased a Carte Blanche crew, along with the late presenter Derek Watts, out of his office, without responding to accusations that emerged during his tenure as the MEC for Local Government and Housing.

Ngxanga was also convinced that the ANC provincial chairperson had been “ambushed” during the recent Carte Blanche interview.

“Saul made valid points in the interview, where the ANC-led government continues to develop infrastructure to benefit the majority and ensure that more people are employed in this Province.

“We implore the provincial chairperson not to be deterred on his mission of serving the people of this Province.”

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