Guptas suck Mpumalanga mining town dry

2018-02-18 06:01

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Residents of Hendrina in Mpumalanga are keenly feeling the Guptas’ financial woes because the water they receive from the family’s Optimum coal mine frequently dries up.

The mine is obliged to supply between 4 million and 5 million litres of water per day to Hendrina and neighbouring KwaZamokuhle. This is in terms of a 2012 agreement with Steve Tshwete Local Municipality to supply water to the two settlements from the mine’s water treatment plant.

But residents say that over the past year, their taps have run dry frequently, owing to water outages.

Municipality spokesperson Prudence Magutle says despite the fact that the municipality regularly pays its water account to Optimum, which amounts to between R900 000 and R1.2 million a month, there are frequent water cuts.

“Our accounts are up to date. The problem is with the mine. Since the banks stopped doing business with the Guptas, they haven’t been able to pay their contractors,” she said.

She says the municipality has now had to place 20 water tanks at strategic points in Hendrina, which are kept topped up by 10 water tankers.

Residents like Annemarie Harms (49) are fed up.

“We have been struggling like this for a year. There is at least a week every month that we don’t have water. We have had to install a water tank, which cost R8 000, on our property. I don’t know how people who cannot afford this cope,” she said.

Harms and her family are now used to making alternative plans for water supply.

'We had to bath in the dam'

“We have two baths in our house. When there is water, we fill up the one and use the water to cook with and wash dishes. We use the other bath to bath in and use the dirty water to flush the toilets,” she says.

Kwazamokuhle resident Belina Kubeka (58) says the township folk are suffering too.

“In December we had no water, and no water was provided for us. We had to bath in the dam,” she said.

Water provision is, however, the least of Optimum’s headaches.

An insider at the mine said on Friday that there is “about only one” contractor left at Optimum who is prepared to perform earthmoving work for the Guptas. The insider said that when the last contractors stop working, the Optimum mine will not be able to deliver coal to Eskom.

“Then there will be a problem,” he said.

Optimum mine did not respond to requests for comment.

However, mine manager Howard Pyoos admitted in an official letter to the municipality that the water provision problem lay with the mine.

He wrote that contractors shut down the water treatment plant on Tuesday because the mine had failed to pay them.

Read more on:    optimum  |  gupta family  |  water crisis

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