iLembe blames aging infrastructure for water interruptions

PHOTO: suppliedCouncillor Sandeep Oudhram and mayor Siduduzo Gumede at the site where the pipes are failing.
PHOTO: suppliedCouncillor Sandeep Oudhram and mayor Siduduzo Gumede at the site where the pipes are failing.

AN approximately 65-year-old concrete pipeline supplying water from the Mvoti Waterworks to the KwaDukuza Central Business District and surrounding areas has been revealed as the reason for the water supply challenges currently facing the iLembe District Municipality.

The pipe - which has broken at least five times in a space of two months - is located at Lot 14 Valley just behind the Desai Family Farm.

The pipe supplies water from the Mvoti Balancing Reservoir in Melville to the Saunders Street Reservoir in the CBD. This water is then distributed to the CBD, Gledhow, Glenhills, Townview, Kearsney, Warrenton, Shakaville, Stanger Manor, Stanger Heights and High Ridge, Blythedale, Doctorskop and other surrounding areas.

iLembe District Municipality mayor Siduduzo Gumede met with some of the affected areas’ councillors, community leaders and the local media this on Saturday, January 27 for a briefing on the challenges and what council is doing to address them.

“The problem that we have is that the community doesn’t understand the issues we are faced with. The fact is we have old infrastructure that will break from time to time and that we have to repair and maintain while trying to put in new infrastructure. The fact is we have people who are not paying for services and as such we do not have money for repairs and maintenance,” said the mayor.

Gumede said the issue of water supply in KwaDukuza was actually better compared to other local municipalities in the district and in the country.

“The issue here is not the source of water. We are in a far better position now than [when were in drought]. We now have two sources of water that we control. We took over the control of the Mvoti Waterworks from Umgeni and we also have the Thukela Bulk Water Scheme that we can tap into,” he said.

Addressing the community outrage on social media, Gumede said he was hurt by the attacks as they were not justified.

“We have made great strides in an effort to turn this municipality around. When we got here everything was done by contractors and now it’s our own staff. Obviously in a big job like this, we will have contractors assisting. In the past we were paying our workers’ salaries and contractors. I’m one of the mayors who is very unpopular with some of these contractors. Some of them were even claiming for [that were not completed],” he said. Gumede said council had a three-year plan to change the situation so that people will have a reliable water supply.

“We must talk about the community responsibility in changing this situation. iLembe is the water services authority in the area, but we have many people using unlicensed boreholes and in essence getting free water. That is why we have a problems with the sewer tariff because many people are using unlicensed water to flush, but they are flushing into our system. One of the reasons we struggle is because people do not pay for services.

“Repairs and maintenance relies on what is being paid for services. If you don’t pay for services we will have a problem and that’s where we are. Most areas in KwaDukuza today are now benefitting from the Thukela Bulk Scheme from our own budget. You go to Darnall today and they are no longer drinking that terrible water they used to drink. You go to Zinkwazi today, go to Zamani and go to Lindelani. Very soon it will be San Souci, Malende and Mgigimbe,” said Gumede. The pipeline broke twice on Saturday morning in different sections and a contractor along with the district’s technical team were on site attending to the repairs.

“We would like to plead with the community to be patient with us. We understand their frustrations, but we are working around the clock to make sure that we resolve these problems,” said Gumede.

Despite the explanations and apologies from the mayor, residents are not convinced. Commenting on the post on the Stanger Weekly Facebook page residents vented their ire and raised more questions.

Kleintjie Hilda commented: “But I don’t understand why only now they say the pipes are old, why don’t they check? And why just shut down the whole town and surroundings with no water trucks...people are getting water illegally so we must pay for them. It’s so wrong we pay so much for the service yet we battle still. Why don’t they check streets for open holes that really leak with water and fix that. And consider a reasonable price for our service this is really too much.”

Responding to the mayor’s comments on boreholes, Anusha Anu Naidoo said most people who have boreholes also consume iLembe supplied water so they pay for the services.

“The only reason we had a rise in boreholes in and around Stanger was because no one sent water tankers to assist people when they were suffering without water for a few months. Blaming boreholes does not explain why they don’t have the money to repair and replace anything since most boreholes were installed at houses that had existing iLembe water lines and services. Correct me if I’m wrong, was the municipality not supposed to have replaced all old pipes with the new blue pipes when they dug up our town and left us without water for over two months during the introduction of water pay meters phase?”

Pregasen Don Perumall questioned if the municipality heard of planned preventative maintenance.

“Twenty years running the municipality only to realise now the pipes need to be replaced, only now people are not paying for services. Boreholes have been around for years why target those people now when plans should have been in place a long time ago to deal with the culprits for services rendered and not paid for. What about theft of illegal water connections and electricity yet rates, electricity, water increases happen every year, where’s the money?”

What is your take on the current water situation in KwaDukuza, let us know on our Facebook page.

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