Municipal manager quits over water crisis

2014-06-06 08:29
A resident fills his bucket with water after water supply was restored in Boitumelong township in Bloemhof, North West. (Werner Beukes, Sapa)

A resident fills his bucket with water after 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 resigned amid a water contamination crisis that claimed the lives of three babies in Bloemhof.

"Yes, I can confirm that," North West Premier Supra Mahumapelo's spokesperson Sam Mokaila told Sapa on Friday.

"We received confirmation on the resignation yesterday [Thursday]."

Mokaila said an interim city manager would be appointed next week.

"The exco [provincial executive council] has requested for someone to be sent from the department of local government to sit in until someone is properly appointed," he said.

"No one has been sent yet. The request came through yesterday, so the appointment is expected to be made on Monday."

Task team set up

Earlier this week, a joint task team was set up to look into the municipality's ailing infrastructure, governance, and administrative problems, and a spillage that resulted in the water contamination.

The team comprised members of the exco, the water and sanitation department, and other officials.

Makwapane was suspended on Monday following a meeting by provincial and municipal leaders.
Last week, Makwapane blamed a contractor for Bloemhof's water contamination problem.

At the time, he said the water contamination followed a sewage spillage in Boitumelong and a contractor was hired to clean it up.

"...But he abandoned his work due to protest riots in the area," said Makwapane.

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

Locals told to boil water

In April, violent protests erupted in Boitumelong and residents torched several buildings, including houses belonging to municipal employees. Residents wanted the entire municipal council removed.

Over the past two weeks, scores of residents were treated for diarrhoea at local clinics. Three babies later died after contracting severe diarrhoea.

The municipality shut down the water supply system for it to be cleaned and sanitised. Last Thursday, water was restored.

Afterwards, residents still complained of brown water coming out of taps. Residents were asked to boil the water before using it.

Water samples were taken and the National Institute for Communicable Diseases said tests for cholera were negative.

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