Votes will dry up without water delivery

2011-04-30 15:48

 No matter who takes control of the Zululand district municipality after May 18, the key service delivery issue will remain the provision of the scarce but most basic of essential commodities – water.

All five towns within the district – Ulundi, Nongoma, eDumbe (Paulpietersburg), uPhongolo and Abaqulusi (Vryheid) – as well as the more than 800 villages scattered throughout it, face a constant daily battle for water.

District mayor Blessed Gwala says the municipality faces a staggering water provision backlog of some 2.4?billion litres, a figure made more frightening by the size of the district and the difficulty in installing piping over such vast distances.

For the current financial year, about 80% of the municipality’s R632?million budget goes on bulk water supply.

Many residents outside the major urban centres depend on communal standpipes for the water, a situation worsened by pumping problems caused by erratic electricity supply from Eskom.

Business people complain that the erratic water and electricity supply even in the urban centres cripples their ability to earn a living.

Bongani Zulu (35), who runs a photographic business in Ulundi, says the municipality regularly fails to inform residents when there are to be electricity and water shortages.

“We find it very hard to do business when we don’t know if we are going to have water and power to operate from day to day,” he says.

During a visit to the district we saw two women, one with a baby, sitting in the shade of a tree in their garden in Mabedlana village, about five minutes’ drive from Ulundi. They were watching a maddeningly slow dripping of water from their standpipe into buckets that had taken several days to fill.

Nana Mbatha says the water supply has been erratic since last year.

“The supply is bad and comes and goes. We have had no water here since last week. We are tired of this municipality. We have no water, no electricity and no roads here. We are very tired,’’ she says.

Gwala says that while the district has 10 water schemes in various stages of development, they will all take time to complete.

In the interim, the district is creating temporary catchment projects by building mini dams to provide locals with water.

A link has recently been completed from the Mtjonjaneni sub-station (in nearby Malalazi municipality) to ensure an uninterrupted electricity supply for the pumping stations.

Jeremiah Mavundla, an NFP activist from Nongoma, says the issue of water is “fundamental’’ to life in Zululand.

“There are many issues here that are common to all municipalities but water is fundamental, followed by electricity and roads. The key to the future here is ensuring that people have water. Whoever gets that right has their support guaranteed,’’ says Mavundla.

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