The president conducted a walkabout at the Rooiwal plant and also threw down the gauntlet to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi to recruit young people as water wardens to look after the water facilities.
PRESIDENT Cyril Ramaphosa on Thursday blasted the Tshwane Municipality for its failure to maintain the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Plant – linked to the deadly cholera outbreak – despite the fact that residents continued to pay for their council services every month.
Ramaphosa spoke while visiting the Hammanskraal area to assess the impact of the outbreak. He addressed people at Temba Stadium.
“Money comes in but not all of it is used to maintain the plant. This is the first mistake, that there hasn’t been proper maintenance,” Ramaphosa charged.
He also found fault with the municipality for not adhering to directives by the Department of Water and Sanitation to fix the Rooiwal plant.
“The national department even went to court and the municipality couldn’t even listen to the court, either,” Ramaphosa told residents.
The president also threw down the gauntlet to Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi to recruit young people as water wardens to look after the water facilities.
Ramaphosa apologised profusely to residents for the poor quality of water supplied to them.
He conceded that the government was in the wrong for having flouted residents’ constitutional rights of having access to clean running water.
While he said the source of cholera was still unknown, he announced that 31 people had died countrywide since the outbreak. More than 20 of the dead were from Hammanskraal.
Ramaphosa conducted a walkabout at the Rooiwal plant, which had been identified as the source of dirty water provided to the locals.
While at the plant Ramaphosa interacted with workers who told him that a lack of maintenance at the facility was a huge problem.
One of the workers said the municipality was only allocating R14 million for maintenance annually instead of the required R60m.
He apologised to families who had lost their loved ones to cholera.
Ramaphosa said: “We are sorry that it has taken the deaths of a number of people, even though we have not yet confirmed that the cholera deaths are as a result of the water supplied to residents. Your basic human right of having clean water, we have not lived up to your expectations as the people of Hammanskraal.”
Many people in the township were admitted to the Jubilee District Hospital last month after they fell ill with diarrhoeal disease or gastrointestinal infections said be caused by the consumption of contaminated water.
Ramaphosa reiterated the recent statement recently made by City of Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink that the revamping of Rooiwal would require at least R4 billion and would be completed in three years.
He said money would be made available from different government departments, and the City.
“The City will also make a contribution to make sure that we revamp and expand Rooiwal water works and we also revamp the Temba water works so that they can both deliver clean running water,” Ramaphosa said.
In the meantime, he said, the municipality would be supplying tanker water to residents to ensure they had potable water.
Ramaphosa said the government would get Magalies Water to build small water works in six months to provide clean water to communities, adding that tankering water would not be a permanent thing.
“When I was in Rooiwal I asked if there is an engineer who works here. And I was told there is no engineer here but he comes time and again. We don’t want an engineer who will come time and again. We want an engineer there all the time,” he said.
He emphasised that revamping Rooiwal should be done by qualified people.
Last year, the City announced that it terminated a contract of a joint venture linked to businessman Edwin Sodi, whose lack of experience in infrastructure projects had been questioned.
Sodi’s company was appointed for the R253m phase 1 construction of the Rooiwal project in October 2019.
Brink recently said the second phase, including crucial upgrades to the plant, would cost an estimated R2.5bn. On the other hand, the Tshwane council also approved a R450m allocation to capacitate the plant.