2014-10-03 00:00

AS taps ran dry across six municipalities under the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (UMDM) yesterday, it emerged that sabotage was the likely cause.

This after water and sanitation staff at the district municipality embarked on industrial action on Tuesday.

Affected Hilton residents inundated The Witness with calls complaining about their dry taps.

Angry and frustrated residents questioned why they had to suffer when they had nothing to do with the complaints of the strikers.

A Hilton resident who didn’t want to be named said, “We are tired of being used as a bargaining chip by striking workers who interfere with services so the municipality can act on their grievances.”

They said they would not support the strikers because they were using residents to fight their battles.

Others posted their frustrations on social networks trying to get information from others on why they had no water.

On the Hilton Ratepayers Association Facebook page Belinda Skea wrote: “Shocking, just shocking, if that is the case. I could uncomfortably go without water for three days, but what about people who require water to earn an income or for sanitary/cleaning reasons. Shocking!!”

Yolandi Germishuys wrote: “Does anyone have water in Hilton surroundings, where I can collect from for the salon please … we don’t have water at the Quarry Centre too.”

Other residents from areas like Merrivale in uMngeni Municipality, New Hanover in uMshwathi and Richmond also complained about not having water.

The water crisis was also experienced in Mkhambathini, Impendle and Mpofana municipalities.

Residents concluded that it could not be a coincidence that just as staff members of the district that supplies water to all these areas went on strike, all of a sudden there was no water in their respective areas.

Hilton DA ward councillor Pam Passmoor said, “We suspect that there has been an act of sabotage by the striking workers.”

She had gone to Summit Road in Hilton to inspect a water leak where clean water was gushing into the drain. Residents had been flocking there, angry that nothing was being done to switch off the gushing water; this as water shortages have struck the province.

“This could fill up a dam,” they shouted.

“Apparently last night residents spotted people fiddling with water valves and shortly after that there was no water in Hilton,” said Passmoor.

She said the municipality could not fix it because the water technical services workers had the keys to the valve and were nowhere to be found.

Passmoor said water was cut off at 9.30 pm on Wednesday.

She said there were no reports of burst pipes, but the entire area had no water.

She said in Merrivale there were about three burst pipes reported and there was also no water there.

Residents wanted to know why management was not turning the water off despite it being evident that a huge amount of water was going to waste.

Margie Garrard from Hilton said she phoned the municipality at 7 am yesterday when she noticed the leak but nothing was done about it.

At around 11.40 am a private contractor finally switched off the leak from the reservoir and contract workers began to dig to fix the burst pipe.

Philip Croft posted on the Hilton Ratepayers Association Facebook page: “Hilton Gardens has no water. Municipal office closed due to industrial action and refer you to 083 642 0050 and voice mail response. Development of the area becomes a joke if we cannot keep the basic services operational. Yesterday no electricity from 02.00 until 16.00.”

Some residents were offering access to their own water tanks toneighbours.

Just before 9 pm, Passmoor reported that the pipes had been fixed, pumping had restarted and water should be flowing within three to four hours.

THE district municipality yesterday confirmed they are investigating the alleged sabotage of water services by striking workers.

UMDM spokesperson Mbali Ndlovu said there are reported allegations of sabotage which are the subject of an intensive investigation. She would not elaborate on these allegations, only saying that “while the industrial action has been ongoing, there have been water interruptions within the district as a result of burst water pipes”.

“We are utilising skeleton staff to attend and respond to all burst pipes, interruptions and other emergencies reported,” she said.

“The turnaround time to the disruptions has been affected due to very minimal staff we have.

“We are currently experiencing large volumes of calls, and urge our customers to be patient when contacting our toll-free number,” said Ndlovu.

She apologised to consumers for the “huge inconvenience caused during this unfortunate period” and said they were working overtime to ensure continued supply of water.

To report service delivery interruptions and emergencies, call 0800 864 911 during working hours.

Yesterday, the SA Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) handed over a memorandum to officials from the Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta), demanding that MEC Nomsa Dube-Ncube intervene in an ongoing dispute between the union and management to resolve job grading issues which have led to the industrial action.

Samwu wanted a response within seven days.

Ndlovu said the UMDM management was in negotiations with Samwu and that the matter had been elevated to Cogta for conciliation and possible agreement.

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