Disgruntled mayor barricades Rand Water gates demanding water for residents

2018-01-09 11:45

Emfuleni mayor, Mayco and senior members of the financially vulnerable municipality have barricaded the entrance to Rand Water following water cuts due to debt. (Supplied).

Emfuleni mayor, Mayco and senior members of the financially vulnerable municipality have barricaded the entrance to Rand Water following water cuts due to debt. (Supplied).

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Johannesburg – Frustrated Emfuleni Mayor Jacob Khawe barricaded the gates of Rand Water's Glenvista head office in Emfuleni, Vereeniging, on Tuesday morning following the interruption of water supplies due to debt to the water board.

Khawe told News24 that although his municipality was financially vulnerable, there was an agreement with Rand Water to pay off the debt.

He said the agreement was that Rand Water would switch the water supply back on Monday night.

"The agreement doesn't include a complete [cutting off] of water, but a water reduction of 40% to manage the current account. Rand Water has still not given the instruction for water to be [switched back on]," he said.

Khawe, who told News24 that he was with his mayoral committee and senior management in the council, said he could not sit in his office while residents were without water.

The municipality's communications manager, Stanley Gaba, said in a statement that the areas most affected by the water reduction included Vanderbijlpark, Evaton West, Evaton, Evaton North, Lakeside, Sebokeng, Rustervaal and Roshnee.

Commitment to settle account

The reduction in water over the weekend has also been attributed to electricity cable theft, which was said to have affected the pumping of water into municipal reserves.

Khawe said they were standing outside the water board to demand water supply for residents who have been without water since Friday during the searing heatwave in Gauteng.

He said, since he took office on November 29, he has endeavoured to pay the amount with the little that was available, expressing his frustration at the alleged misinformation spread by the water board in the media.

"I kept quiet for three days while [Rand Water was] going to the media, saying we are not honouring our agreement…. I admit that Emfuleni made a commitment to pay an amount of R200m by 5 January, but today I paid R177m to show that I am committed to paying, and fostering a good relationship with Rand Water," he said.

In December alone, the municipality paid just under R150m.

In a statement on Tuesday afternoon, Rand Water however disagreed that the municipality paid the money. 

Spokesperson Gregg Mulzack the municipality owned the water board more than 400m by November and fell short by R45m in it's December payment.  

He condemned the "occupation of its business premises", calling it unnecessary. 

"Should Rand Water be placed in further and on-going financial risk the entity will be plunged into a debt crisis which will impact all municipalities currently serviced by Rand Water," Mulzack said. 

"[It will] curtail the ability of Rand Water to finance the building of future bulk water infrastructure or even to undertake adequate maintenance of its very extensive network."

Disgruntled residents

Meanwhile, Gauteng Premier David Makhura visited Emfuleni on Monday to ensure that interventions were put in place to restore water supply.

Despite an engagement with Makhura and Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane in which Khawe was assured that water would be restored in the affected areas on Tuesday, there was still no water.

Makhura said in a statement on Monday that a long-term solution needed to be drawn up to curb bubbling protest action.

Disgruntled residents in affected areas such as Palm Springs have already taken to the streets to voice their dissatisfaction over the interrupted water supply despite having paid their bills.

Many residents have had to take buckets and wheelbarrows, and queue at households which have a water supply or make use of JoJo water tanks, which the municipality has supplied.

The Department of Water and Sanitation's Sputnik Ratau told News24 that municipalities must make arrangements and stick with them to avoid being stuck in bad situations.

"It's incumbent on [municipalities] to bring payments to date so services are not interrupted. Something like this usually affects all municipalities and the whole operation of Rand Water, therefore this is a bigger problem than it [appears]. The intervention by the premier is crucial. As a province, they'll guide the municipality in paying their debt," he said.

Read more on:    rand water  |  johannesburg  |  service delivery  |  water  |  local government

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