Locals dig for iron from decommissioned dam

2014-05-20 00:00

REDUNDANT water pipes, over 100 years old, have become a source of income for a Ladysmith community, but this is proving to be a headache for local authorities there.

A case of theft and trespassing has been opened after a massive crowd began digging up old redundant iron water piping from a decommissioned dam at Ladysmith.

Over 500 people have been seen digging for the iron, around the Quesdusizi Dam over the past month using picks, spades and various kinds of excavating equipment.

The pipeline used to run water to Ladysmith.

But police and municipal officials are now concerned for the safety of those who are pillaging the pipe. Deep trenches have been dug over the pipeline — some resembling graves they are so deep — and there are concerns that the earth around the trenches could collapse on them.

At times people are believed to be excavating at 3 am in the dark to try and avoid being caught. Witnesses say that there are up to five men working in each trench.

A source who asked not to be named also fears that the diggers could be crushed by boulders around the dam wall.

“People are digging under the boulders; the huge rocks could fall on them and kill them.

“If we work in teams, we can make a lot of money and feed ourselves and our families,” said a woman digger who asked to remain unnamed. She told the Ladysmith Herald that they can get up to R1 000 to R2 000 for over 500 kg of iron.

“This is a lot of money for us. I have not had a job, since I left school,” she added.

It is also alleged that municipal officials at Quesdusizi Dam were threatened and intimidated by the group of people. “We will not stop until we have dug up all the cast iron,” added the woman. “I’m hungry, what am I supposed to do?” said the Peacetown woman.

Last week, the Ladysmith K9 Unit and SAPS officials were called to the scene and after talking to the crowd of people, they dispersed peacefully, but it’s believed the group returned later that day and continued digging.

Chief director for the Department of Water Affairs: KwaZulu-Natal, Ashley Starkey said while the Quesdusizi Dam belongs to the Department of Water Affairs, it is operated and maintained by the Enambithi Local Municipality who also owned the pipeline.

He said the pipeline is due to be disposed of via municipal processes. He added that police were patrolling the area on the look-out for any further activity there.

He stressed that the removal of the pipe would have no impact on the water system in the area as it had been decommissioned and redundant for the past 20 years.

“Ladysmith is now supplied by Spoeinkop Dam,” said Starkey.

The pipeline is around 100 years old and has been redundant for the past 20 years.

A spokesperson for Emnambithi/Ladysmith Municipality said they have laid a charge of theft on municipal property but are waiting clarification from the Department of WaterAaffairs on the rest of the property where the theft has occurred.

“The matter is still under investigation, the municipality will provide a full report once all factual information and evidence has been obtained and verified.”

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