Thaba Chweu taps run dry

Mbombela - The crumbling Thaba Chweu local municipality in Mashishing, Mpumalanga, is in the throes of a water shortage after pumps broke down recently.

Thaba Chweu Democratic Alliance (DA) councillor Sonja Boshoff said that faulty pumps at the Mashishing water works were unable to build up pressure to fill the town’s four reservoirs, which provide water to 37 000 people.

“We have been inundated with calls from residents who are not receiving running water since Wednesday. Only those people with JoJo tanks and boreholes have a steady supply,” Boshoff told African Eye News Service.

Boshoff said mining group Xstrata have stepped in to buy the municipality two new pumps, at a cost of R70 000.

“These pumps are unfortunately in Middelburg and need to be fetched and installed. This process can take some days,” Boshoff explained.


The breakdown comes a day after the municipality narrowly avoided a blanket power shutdown by Eskom due to an unpaid debt of R146m.

Last week, the North Gauteng High Court in Pretoria granted an urgent interdict to Afrikaner-rights group AfriForum, postponing the power cut to November 18 pending payment of the debt.

Boshoff said that the municipality’s coffers were dry and that mining companies were increasingly stepping in to keep Thaba Chweu afloat.

“Without them, Thaba Chweu would already be long gone. We cannot expect mining companies to keep going so far beyond their social corporate responsibility,” she said.

A task team dispatched by Premier David Mabuza to prevent the total collapse of the municipality has been given until December 15 to present a Financial Recovery Plan.

“Businesses have not been paid by the municipality for services rendered and will remain unpaid until after the Financial Recovery Plan has been put together,” Boshoff said.

Thaba Chweu Mayor Michael Ncongwane confirmed that funds at the municipality were drying up.

“Due to the current difficulties we are having, the help of mining companies is greatly valued. It is unfortunate that water is not being supplied to Mashishing, but we are ensuring that the water pumps are installed as soon as possible,” said Ncongwane.

AfriForum chair in Mashishing, Leon de Jager, said that the municipality was employing people without the relevant skills.

“As long as the municipality continues to employ comrades instead of competent people, disasters like this will continue to happen,” De Jager said.

E. coli

In 2012, AfriForum conducted tests of Mashishing’s water supply which revealed high levels of E. Coli, making it risky to drink tap water.

The municipality recorded a Blue Drop Score of 19.1% in 2012, with the twelfth worst water drinking quality in the country.

“We expect this to be even worse in 2013 as the municipality has regressed quickly this year.

We know we can’t drink water directly from the taps, so those people who can afford it all use their own water filters,” Boshoff said.
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