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Go through the motions, and nothing changes

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GREY MUTTER: Once again I need to fill bottles, barrels and containers with water, seeing as there is yet another water shutdown looming, with taps running dry next weekend, writes Lance Fredericks.

The city of Kimberley will once again see the taps running dry with yet another water shutdown planned for April 21-23. File picture: Soraya Crowie

BACK IN 1849, French writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr wrote “plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose”. Oh, excuse me, pardon my French. That means “the more things change, the more they stay the same”.

When I read that, I wondered what made Karr so despondent. I was even tempted to read Karr’s book. However, I will have to put that off as I have a few chores to take care of. Once again I need to fill bottles, barrels and containers with water, seeing as there is yet another water shutdown looming, with taps running dry next weekend.

What’s encouraging this time though is that we are being reassured that the city’s water woes are almost a thing of the past. After all, according to our Municipality’s spokesperson in a recent DFA article, “This will mark the beginning of a huge improvement to the supply and quality of the water in the future.”

And then another assurance follows: “The refurbishment of the bulk pipeline will be implemented over a seven-year period . . . actively commencing in July.”

Only seven years? So by 2030, Kimberley should have no more problems with its water supply and quality. Hip, hip, hooray! Let’s mark our calendars. I want to be around to celebrate!

Though I am sick and tired of water shutdowns, what concerns me even more is wondering who will be handling the repairs. You see, a while back there was quite a leak in the middle of Hercules Street. It bubbled and oozed for a week or so, and then one day I was pleased to see waterworks personnel on site.

They went about their assigned duty, and by the time I passed by the following day, they were done and the hole had been filled in.

Cynically I thought, “Now all we have to do is wait until the road repair crew decides to swing by.” However, I was being ambitious. Three days later, it was obvious that the leak had not been plugged.

Today, a few weeks on, the water is still oozing and bubbling from the ‘repaired’ leak. I wonder, back at the office, has this job been ticked off as ‘done’? I am concerned that this work ethic will be transferred to next weekend’s repairs … unless, that is, other waterworks personnel will be responsible for that job.

My frustration at this shoddy workmanship led me to do some digging.

In October last year, the South African Municipal Workers’ Union local chairperson suggested, following one of Kimberley’s frequent water interruptions, that the shutdowns did not do much to improve the quality of the city’s water.

ALSO READ: Union calls for probe into water shutdowns

“Time and time again the same superficial patching is done and yet the water problems persist. The water remains dirty,” said Daily Semau.

He also estimated that the previous two water shutdowns came at a cost of R13 million, while R10 million was spent on the water shutdown that took place three weeks prior, saying: “It would be more beneficial to replace the entire pipeline between Riverton and Kimberley to permanently address the leaks, this will cost around R10 million.”

I dug further back, and found an article written in November 2021.

“Kimberley residents are once again urged to fill up their containers as the Sol Plaatje Municipality has scheduled another four-day water shutdown starting on Thursday evening, November 18 until late afternoon Sunday, November 21, 2021. The scope of the work will include major known and visible leaks on the 965mm line from Riverton to Kimberley.”

Going further back, I found an article written in June 2021. One paragraph read: “Residents of the city are advised of a planned water supply interruption for the entire city from Thursday night, June 24 until Saturday night, June 26, 2021. Please note that to enable the various teams to conduct these repairs and replacing air valves on the bulk supply line, this will result in supply interruption.”

How far back did this dry trail go? I dug further and found an article written in October 2020.

ALSO READ: Sol plans water shutdown

“Municipal spokesperson, Sello Matsie, said the water would be cut to the entire city due to emergency repairs that need to be conducted on the 1 200mm, 965mm and 600mm pipes in Roodepan and at the Newton Reservoir.”

A few months earlier, in July that year, the following: “The purpose of the shutdown on the weekend of July 11, 2020, is to install two valves at the pump station that will allow both the 600mm and 965mm bulk water lines to be isolated from each other and to be able to operate independently.”

ALSO READ: Kimberley residents can brace for water cuts

By now I didn’t want to go further back, but curiosity got the better of me.

In November 2019, the article read: “ ‘Community members were surprised to find that despite the promises from the MEC last week, there was no water over the weekend for patients to wash, for the toilets or for cleaning purposes,’ a spokesperson for the union said. This was after the Sol Plaatje Municipality suspended pumping via the 975mm pipeline from Riverton in order to fix several leaks on the line.”

ALSO READ: Empty promises

Here’s what I am saying: I really, really, REALLY hope that the R2 billion injection that was allocated by the National Treasury and the Department of Water and Sanitation to the Sol Plaatje Municipality will, as stated in an article last week, “… be used to improve infrastructure, water quality and address water leaks.”

I hope that it doesn’t turn out to be what author Mokokoma Mokhonoana suggests when he writes: “We sometimes do something fast to compensate for our inability or unwillingness to do it well.”

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