Several residents of Polokwane are adamant that the city’s political leaders and officials that are unable to find solutions for the city’s water crisis should vacate their offices to make space for knowledgeable and able people to do the work.
Fingers were pointed at Executive Mayor Thembi Nkadimeng, Member of the Mayoral Committee for Water and Sanitation, William Kganyago, Municipal Manager Dikgape Makobe and recently appointed Water and Sanitation Director, Sammy Makoti at the community meeting that took place in Flora Park last Thursday evening.
Yesterday (Wednesday) Nkadimeng was also scheduled to meet with a delegation of the South African Human Rights Commission that is visiting the province to investigate complaints regarding service delivery issues which include water and sanitation.
Tyres were burnt and streets blockaded in Flora Park two weeks ago and also in Seshego, Madiba Park, Luthuli Park, Zone 1 and at the bridge en route to Blood River in the early hours of Tuesday when protesting residents aired their discontent about water shortages, high billing of services and service delivery issues in general.
Supporters of one of the structures of the South African National Civic Organisation (Sanco) in Limpopo marched to Nkadimeng’s office twice during the last month to voice their dissatisfaction with issues of maladministration, nepotism and bribery. Nkadimeng responded to their claims in writing but Sanco indicated that it was not satisfied with the reply. “We regret to announce that the office of the Executive Mayor deliberately chooses to outline how the system of local government works or operates, instead on responding to the demands of the community,” Sanco said.
Residents and businesspeople say that they are no longer prepared to listen to the municipality blaming Lepelle Northern Water (LNW) and Eskom for the water shortages that have become a daily challenge and that it is the municipality’s obligation to deal with the challenges at the different levels of government. “The city’s political leadership cannot blame the previous regimes for not planning and regard it as a fait accompli and now just sit back and relax while they are waiting for the next regime to take over and for us to live with the problems,” a resident said and added that it was now time to grab the bull by the horns and mitigate the immediate challenges while long-term solutions are fast tracked.
Consumers appreciate the fact that the national Department of Water and Sanitation has imposed water restrictions on all the bulk suppliers of water that were necessitated by the water crisis that the country faces as such. “It is however a fact that wastage of water is a common sight and if it could be contained, more water will be available for consumption,” a resident rightly said and referred to instances where main water lines are vandalised and water left running away for weeks before the municipality takes action. “Informal car washers open fire hydrants with specially made tools and do not even bother to close it afterwards,” a businessperson in the CBD claimed.
Another local businessperson said that the municipality is underestimating the effect of the water shortages on the local economy. “I have to buy water to be able to keep my kitchens clean in order to ensure a safe and hygienic environment where food is prepared. That inflates prices. We are paying a basic water levy that is supposed to be for the availability of water but it is not refunded when there is no water. The municipality is actually ripping us off,” he claimed. Hospitals and schools have spent considerable amounts to make alternative provision for reserve capacity when municipal services are down and it spirals down to the public.
Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor in the municipality, Frank Haas said that if the municipality could only improve its capacity to obtain water from its own sources, it would also provide some relief. “There is no immediate solution. The construction of a line from De Hoop Dam in the Steelpoort River that was kept in abeyance since 2012 may take some time and an interim measure may be to activate more boreholes and maintain redundancy of resources that can replace faulty equipment immediately. We are losing a lot of capacity when pumps are down and it takes time to replace them,” Haas said and added that he has already requested that national key points like the Olifantspoort water treatment plant and the municipality’s pump stations should be excluded from load shedding. Preventative maintenance of key equipment should be prioritised and strict enforcement of water restrictions a given, according to Haas.
Economic Freedom Fighters (EFF) caucus leader in the municipality, Ronny Malema and Freedom Front Plus councillor Karen Coetzee could not be reached to provide input.
Story: BARRY VILJOEN