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Sol under fire

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Although the leak had been reported to the municipality, as well as to the ward councillor, on numerous occasions, nothing had been done

WITH water losses in Kimberley costing the city almost R60 million a year, concern has once again been expressed about leaking pipes that are seemingly ignored by the Sol Plaatje Municipality.

Meanwhile calls have also been made for an urgent Sol Plaatje Municipality residents’ indaba as private, public and community members seek practical solutions to the local authority’s escalating problems.

A businessman in Beaconsfield said yesterday that water had been running down Main Road since before Christmas.

“Initially the municipality fixed the leak on one side of the road but the water continued to pour down the road on the other side, even though the leaking pipes were almost directly opposite each other.”

He added that although the leak had been reported to the municipality, as well as to the ward councillor, on numerous occasions, nothing had been done.

“We keep getting conflicting reports on why the municipality cannot send out someone to fix the leak. Initially I was told that there was a massive water leak in Bultfontein Road, near the Sol Plaatje University, and all the municipality’s resources were focused in this area. Then it was because it was pay day and none of the managers could be contacted.

“Last week I was told that nothing could be done because all the staff at the waterworks department were on strike. In the meantime the water keeps flowing unabated down the road. Even the pipe repaired initially on the one side of the road has developed another leak and water is now pouring down both sides of the road again.”

According to municipal spokesperson Sello Matsie a total of 163 pipe bursts have been reported since the beginning of this year. “This number, however, includes duplicate reports.”

He added that to date 70% of these bursts had been attended to.

Regarding the time taken to respond to pipe bursts, Matsie explained that the municipality did not have a “customer care charter” approved by council.

“The response time is based on a number of factors. However, the municipality strives to attend to water bursts within six hours after they have been reported, while some of the bursts are attended to within two hours.”

He explained that the repairs to burst pipes depended on the size of the pipes and site conditions. “Some bursts take longer. An average of four bursts are repaired per day. The most affected areas are Beaconsfield, De Beers, Galeshewe and the CBD, which have a high number of older pipes.”

Complaints from residents against the municipality meanwhile continue to mount, ranging from the burst water pipes that are never attended to, to electricity faults and street lights that continue to burn despite load shedding.

The municipality was recently slapped with a damning report from the auditor-general after it was pointed out that the local authority had incurred electricity losses of R117.5 million in the 2018/19 financial year, while water losses amounted to R58.4 million – more than 60% of the total water purchased.

Residents have also lamented the state of the inner city, referring to the “pigsty for which we have to pay millions”.

“A walkabout in the CBD will leave you in tears,” said one resident.

“The once vibrant city of ‘firsts’, has become a trash heap and nobody cares,” he pointed out.

“Filthy mattresses and the stench of human urine dominate the deteriorating streets, while empty buildings have been hijacked by vandals and drug pedlars. To say that Kimberley has been swallowed up by vices is a non-starter.

“Recovery is near impossible,” he added. “Almost every building in the CBD has been turned into small shops that have been altered without the necessary permission from the municipality, which appears to be incapable of turning the CBD around and regaining control of the town.

“Some streets, like a portion of Stockdale Street, ironically close to the elite crime-fighting Directorate for Priority Crimes, namely the Hawks, are no-go areas. Drugs are sold in full view all of this happening just a stone’s throw away from the provincial police headquarters.

“Meanwhile all the stalls at the taxi rank are completely occupied by foreign nationals trying to survive.”

Matsie said in response that the local government had launched a comprehensive plan, together with the police and other role-playing agencies, to target the situation in the CBD.

“We have involved social services as well because some of these challenges are social issues,” Matsie added.

“The enforcement of trading licences and building control regulations will see us take building owners to court for lack of compliance. We have already started with this and we will also target individuals inside the municipality who are in cohorts with criminals.”

He pointed out that the situation regarding street vendors, who did not have the necessary permission to trade and were not in properly demarcated informal trading areas, would be addressed.

“We want to protect the little that remains of our CBD,” he stated.

“We will also engage with small businesses in future to ensure that we are all on the same page and the current situation will definitely be addressed as a matter of urgency.”