Municipality falls for poisoned-water hoax

2014-03-04 18:39

A hoax text message to Mbombela city councillors was responsible for the water-poisoning scare this morning, which caused the municipality to shut down water supply to a township.

No toxins were found in the water during laboratory tests on the water of the Pienaar township near Nelspruit.

The text message alleged that disgruntled Somali nationals whose shops were looted and vandalised by residents of the township over the weekend had poisoned the water reservoirs.

The locals went beserk on Sunday after the funeral for 20-year-old pupil Wellington Dube, who was allegedly shot dead by a Somali national on February 25 following a fistfight.

It is alleged the businessman had accused Dube of having robbed his shop and shot him when he produced a knife.

Mbombela executive mayor Cathy Dlamini said this afternoon the results showed the water was fit for human consumption.

“It can be confirmed that there are no signs of tampering. The municipality would like to assure the citizens that water is safe for human consumption and people can enjoy it without fear,” Dlamini said.

Dlamini, Mpumalanga cooperative governance departmental head David Mahlobo and the Bushbuckridge Water Board chairperson, Pat Ngomana, promised that they would go to the township tomorrow morning and drink the water to assure residents that it was indeed safe.

Dlamini, however, condemned Dube’s shooting and said the matter could have been handled better. The perpetrator has not been arrested yet as he is on the run.

Mahlobo said it would not be easy to poison the water as the reservoirs were sealed.

He, however, said the incident pointed to the need for better security at the reservoirs.

“We’ve learnt a lesson from this incident ... to find mechanisms how to respond and protect our infrastructure better. Just imagine if this message was for real ... how much damage could we be dealing with?”

Dlamini said the municipality would meet with foreign nationals in Mbombela as well as local communities to preach peace.

Pienaar residents were still angry this morning and they blockaded roads. The anger also spread to the neighbouring KaNyamazane township where the community was also baying for the foreigners’ blood.

The police arrested 13 Pienaar residents aged between 18 and 30 years for public violence after the looting.

Mpumalanga police spokesperson Colonel Leonard Hlathi said four Somalians were arrested during the day for the illegal possession of firearms.

“The situation is under control in the townships,” Hlathi said.

Dlamini would meet foreign nationals this afternoon.

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