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Outcry over “water mismanagement”


“The unprecedented levels of water mismanagement are now way beyond the control of Sol Plaatje Municipality in its current state”

Pictures: Danie van der Lith

AFRIFORUM is in the process of drawing up a petition in protest over the water disruptions in Kimberley, which will be handed over to Sol Plaatje Municipality.

The DA has also submitted a complaint to the Department of Water and Sanitation and the South African Human Rights Commission regarding the water cuts, which it says is a human rights violation.

While dams in the Northern Cape are overflowing following the recent heavy rainfalls, Kimberley residents are being left high and dry with little to no water in their taps.

While the city’s water supply is being switched off daily from 2pm (or even earlier in some areas) until about 5am the next day, many residents have been without water for a number of consecutive days.

Those who are fortunate enough to have a limited water supply for a couple of hours each day are experiencing poor water pressure and/or have muddy water trickling out of their taps.

The Sol Plaatje Municipality is facing serious cash flow problems. It owes Eskom R130 million while debts owed to the Department of Water and Sanitation for bulk water supply total R60 million.

Last weekend, the municipality explained that due to the high turbidity of water – as a result of the floods and the opening of the sluice gates – the Riverton purification plant was experiencing problems.

It explained that the muddy water was due to the recent floods and that only two pumps were in use at the Newton Reservoir and the filtration process was taking longer.

AfriForum co-ordinator in the Northern Cape, Lize-Marie Smit on Thursday invited Kimberley residents to sign the petition and upload a photograph of the water coming from their taps.

“Those who sign the petition should attach visuals of the water quality, for example if they find worms in the water or the water is dirty. The more people who formally voice their concerns, the more weight the petition will have. The municipality will not be able to ignore the problem if there is sufficient evidence detailing the problem,” said Smit.

She indicated that she wanted to finalise the petition next week and hand it over to the municipality at the beginning of March.

“Water is a basic constitutional right and residents are expected to pay rising costs for non-existent services.”

Smit added that water samples that they had collected in Galeshewe this week would be sent for testing at a private laboratory.

“The results of these tests, which will take between four to six days, will determine our next step of action. It will also give an indication of the drinking quality of the water and if it can be purified by boiling it.

She said that they had also visited areas experiencing pipe bursts.

Smit said the petition could be signed on the AfriForum Kimberley Facebook page.

“Petitioners should add their photographs on the link and indicate the state of the water, the time that it comes on and is switched off and for how many hours they are without any water.”

She added that they had been inundated with further complaints regarding the “treacherous state” of the city’s roads, high electricity costs and the non-collection of refuse and services in the Sol Plaatje municipal district.

“The sad truth is that the Sol Plaatje district is not the only municipality to experience water crises but that it is prevalent throughout the Northern Cape. However, the daily water cuts in Kimberley have turned this into a situation that needs to be addressed urgently.”

DA councillor Ockie Fourie said on Thursday that, with the assistance of a technical expert, the party had compiled a report that was submitted to the Department of Water and Sanitation and the South African Human Rights Commission.

He believed that the water problems were the result of “utter mismanagement of water infrastructure” and failure to put any contingency plans in place.

“The Department of Water and Sanitation has agreed to conduct an urgent inspection of Riverton, assess the widespread water leaks and provide a quotation to fix one of the main leaking pipelines in the city,” said Fourie.

He said that during an oversight inspection to the Riverton Water Purification Plant, they found the facility to be in a “shocking state of mismanagement and disrepair”.

“There were six dysfunctional clarifiers that have been broken since September 2020. This means that it was not due to the muddy flood water that the filters blocked up but rather due to sediment and algae being fed through the system, as a resultant lack of infrastructure maintenance.

“It is unacceptable that city residents have been largely left without water for days on end, while most water that is coming through the taps is distinctly brown.

“Daily water cuts have also been effected from Monday this week, daily from 2pm until 5am, which especially punishes residents who get home late from work and start the work day early.”

DA councillor Phillip Vorster stated that a council meeting that was convened yesterday to provide feedback over the water crisis was cancelled.

“Unprecedented levels of water mismanagement are now way beyond the control of Sol Plaatje Municipality in its current state,” said Vorster.

“While the Speaker was apparently having trouble logging on, the majority of councillors couldn’t make the meeting because of an ANC funeral. The cancellation of the meeting, about a half hour late, shows complete disregard for the utter chaos that Sol Plaatje has dumped on city residents.”

No further details over the water situation were forthcoming from Sol Plaatje Municipality at the time of publication.

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