Minister steps in to tackle ‘disaster’

2009-08-28 10:06

WATER and Environmental Affairs Minister Buyelwa ­Sonjica wants

President Jacob Zuma to declare four Limpopo municipalities disaster areas

because of a lack of water.

After seeing the extent of the problem during her recent visit to

affected areas, Sonjica said the Giyani and Letaba ­muni­cipalities in the

Mopani district, and the Makhado and Thulamela municipalities in the Vhembe

district, should be declared disaster areas because they are “almost in a crisis


At least 800 000 people are ­under threat in the Giyani area alone

because the Middle ­Letaba and Nsami dams, the two main sources of water, are

just 6% and 3% full respectively.

The dams went dry from as early as August last year.

­Sonjica insisted she was not addressing the province-wide water

problem in a piecemeal manner by declaring only a ­section of the province a

­disaster area.

“The problem is not confined to Giyani, but the main challenge is

here. Six and 3% dam capacity is nothing. I am sure that even the crocodiles

that are there are dying.”

She said she hoped to get R250 million from the national treasury

to address water problems in the four municipalities in three phases.

The first phase, which included providing water tankers, required

R75 million.

Sonjica said she would impose water restrictions while implementing

long-term solutions.

However, not all water shortages in the province are the result of

natural disasters.

The provincial water affairs department has yet to connect pipes

from the multibillion- rand Nandoni and De Hoop dams in the Vhembe and

Sekhukhune districts ­respectively.

The Nandoni Dam was completed in 2006, and De Hoop Dam was partly

completed more than a year ago. De Hoop is now scheduled to be completed only in


Alison Matukane, Limpopo ‘s water affairs director, said the

process of connecting pipes from the two dams to communities in Sekhukhune and

Vhembe had already begun.

“Currently we are commissioning water purification plants and the

pipes from the Nandoni Dam that will provide water to people in the Thulamela

municipality,” Matukane said.

“In Sekhukhune we are building water service pipelines from the De

Hoop Dam to the Jane Furse area.”

Asked why it was taking so long to connect the pipes, Matukane

said: “Everything cannot be done in one day.”

He said construction of the N’wamitwa Dam outside Tzaneen would

begin before the end of this year and be completed in 2014.

Mopani district municipality mayor Joshua Matlou promised to spend

R16 million this financial year fixing 4 000 ­broken boreholes across the­


Crisis committees have been formed in all five districts.


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