Mayor plans to tackle Tzaneen’s 12-year water crisis

2012-04-14 15:07

 With more than 41% of the Greater Tzaneen Municipality’s half a million residents unemployed, the council has little hope of ever raising enough cash to provide tarred roads, clean running water, sanitation, refuse removal and houses.

But Mayor Dikeledi Mmetle has lofty goals before her term is up – to provide the very basics of electricity, clean water, toilets and low-cost government houses to those who need them.

The municipality is still consulting residents on its Integrated Development Plan (IDP), which will be used to identify its most pressing developmental needs and priorities over the next five years.

But even without the IDP, the municipality’s Spatial Development Framework document has identified the lack of water as a significant risk.

“Water inadequacy ranges from the insufficient capacity of purification plants to the absence of reticulation networks. Water purification plants need upgrading, and additional storage facilities are required,” says the framework document.

“The existing reticulation pipes are old and need to be replaced. A water sewer analysis is being compiled to determine the status of the Tzaneen network and to draft a plan to address it.”

Mmetle says the water shortage was identified as a crisis as long ago as 2000, but she couldn’t say why it had not been addressed in 12 years.

“The most critical service delivery challenge in Tzaneen is water. I have been a councillor since 2000 here and water had been identified as a challenge in our IDP then. There is no water, even underground. But we try our best,” she said.

So crippling are water shortages in Mawa Block 9 that residents are forced to drink water directly from the Mmaba River.

The river has dried up and the residents have dug a number of shallow wells across its length, into which underground water seeps.

To keep their precious water safe from wild animals and cattle, they place lids on top of each well.

Resident Rose Leshabane said: “What can we do? We don’t really have a choice. The boreholes that government gave us are not working. If they do work, it is for a few hours and then they break again. More often, they just pump water to people who live close by, and the rest of us have to come here.”

Mmetle says the local and district municipality provided Mawa with nine boreholes, but only two were working because residents steal the transformers. She was also quick to add that the provision of water and housing was not her municipality’s job.

“It is a competency of the Mopani District, but we can’t sit idle, fold our hands and point at Mopani while people suffer. We deliver the services and claim the money back from Mopani.”

During a recent water indaba, she said: “We were able to scrutinise the challenges and we decided to build the Nwamitwa and Letaba water purification plants, which will go a long way towards alleviating some of our water issues.

“Money has been set aside for the projects and construction will begin soon.”

Water shortages pose a danger to public health and the framework document raises concerns about the possible contamination of ground water by the extensive use of pit latrines in the area.

Despite this risk, Mmetle says the municipality has built about 150 pit toilets for Tzaneen residents during the current financial year and plans to build many more so that when the current municipal term ends, no one has to run to the bush to relieve themselves.

On housing, she says: “We have built about 117 houses so far this year, and hopefully by the end of the term we will have provided many families with shelter.”

The fact that Limpopo’s provincial department of human settlements was the only department in the country to receive a clean and unqualified audit from the Auditor-General for the past financial year means that the province is serious about the provision of houses, she says.

“We have to capitalise on the achievement and do even better this time around.”

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