City manager suspended over water crisis

2014-06-02 12:04
A resident fills his bucket with water after the water supply was restored in Boitumelong township in Bloemhof, North West. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

A resident fills his bucket with water after the water supply was restored in Boitumelong township in Bloemhof, North West. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

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Johannesburg - Lekwa Teemane municipal manager Andrew Makwapane has been suspended amid a water contamination crisis in Bloemhof, North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo said on Monday.

"The suspension...follows a meeting...established by the premier to look into challenges facing the municipality and visits to families that lost three infants over the weekend," said Mahumapelo's spokesperson Lesiba Kgwele in a statement.

He said a forensic investigation was under way and a preliminary report was expected.

A special meeting of the provincial executive council (Exco) would be held on Tuesday to discuss the matter.

"A feedback meeting with the community is to be held on Sunday afternoon after a report is finalised on Friday."

Contractor blamed

No further details on the suspension were provided.

Kgwele said a joint task team, which includes the Exco and the water and sanitation department, was established to look into the municipality's "ailing" infrastructure, governance and administrative problems and a spillage that resulted in the water contamination.

Last week, Makwapane blamed a contractor for Bloemhof's water contamination problem, which has so far claimed the lives of three babies.

At the time, he said: "We know there was a sewage spillage and there was a contractor in Extension Five in Boitumelong who was supposed to fix the problem - but he abandoned his work due to protest riots in the area."

Makwapane could not say when the spill happened, or specify which riots he was referring to.

"If there is somebody who is responsible for the contamination, we will take necessary steps. We want to restore normality and give water back to the people."

Brown water

Violent protests erupted in the Boitumelong in April when residents torched several buildings, including a municipal office, clinic and houses belonging to municipal employees.

The mayor's house was also set alight. Residents wanted their entire municipal council removed.

Dozens of residents went to local clinics to be examined last week following the contamination. Five babies were admitted to hospital for observation.

The municipality shut down its water supply system more than a week ago. The national water affairs department on Friday said the system had been cleaned and sanitised, and water was restored on Thursday evening.

But residents said the water coming out of taps was still brown on Friday, and residents were asked to boil the water first before using it.

Water samples were taken for testing.

The National Institute for Communicable Diseases on Monday said tests to check for cholera were negative.

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