Zille to bill Mokonyane millions for water systems maintenance, repairs

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Helen Zille (File, Netwerk24)
Helen Zille (File, Netwerk24)

Cape Town - Western Cape Premier Helen Zille is planning to slap Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane with a bill for R3.5m for water infrastructure maintenance that she believes the national department should have done.

The national government is responsible for the maintenance of water infrastructures like canals, weirs and dams, but it has fallen behind because it is cash-strapped, according to a statement from Zille's office.

The statement came after an article she wrote for Daily Maverick on the water crisis.

Zille plans to divert some of the R75m disaster relief money Cabinet allocated to the province, to pay for essential maintenance of the canals leading to Voelvlei Dam.

The Voelvlei Dam, near Gouda in the Western Cape, is not in the path of a river - so during winter, water is diverted through a network of canals and a weir to the dam to fill it.

Zille's spokesperson Michael Mpofu said the procurement phase for the maintenance job was already underway in the province. Once approved, all the sediment upstream from the Leeu River weir system would be removed.

It would take at least three weeks, weather permitting.

Water crisis 

Mpofu said ''haphazard'' work was done in 2016 by the national department, but this just led to the loss of 7.5 million cubic litres of water.

According to Monday's report by the province's department of local government, environmental affairs and development planning, the province's dams only increased slightly last week to 27,3% full.

WATCH: Latest dam levels in water-starved Cape Town

''We did not get the rain we were expecting in June,'' said Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development MEC Anton Bredell.

Dam

% Full this week

% Full last week

% Full in 2016

Cape Town System Dams consist of: Wemmershoek; Voëlvlei;
Steenbras Upper and Lower; Theewaterskloof and Berg River Dams

Cape Town Dams (Combined)

27.49

27.04

47.80

Berg River Catchment

35.82

35.27

54.26

Breede River Catchment

26.29

24.67

44.14

Gouritz River Catchment

17.72

18.02

45.04

Olifants / Doorn River Catchment

28.13

26.27

98.66

Western Cape State of Dams

27.31

26.14

50.25

''In July we received an average amount of rain for the period. What we needed this season was above average rainfall. This has not been the case.''

This means it is all hands on deck to not waste the water that is currently available.

Zille said she would send the bill to the national Department of Water and Sanitation to pay back the money to the province.

'Political point scoring'

Mpofu said he did not know what would happen if Mokonyane refused to pay it back. The Western Cape government would in the meantime ask the Auditor-General to condone the expenditure on items outside of the province’s mandate.

Mokonyane's spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said he was surprised by Zille's claims that the department was not maintaining systems in the Western Cape.

He said the department recently did maintenance work near Voelvlei and is planning to start a massive maintenance project in January.

''It is therefore deemed an unnecessary attempt at political point scoring that the provincial sphere of government does not have all of the details before reaching its conclusions or drawing on national issues while neglecting to fully comprehend the provincial issues at hand.''

In addition, the people of the Western Cape are to blame for the crisis because they are using too much water, he added.

''In this regard, we are all aware that the situation in the Western Cape has been worsened by water users, particularly farmers having not adhered to water restrictions imposed on them,'' said Ratau.

He said Zille and Mokonyane attended the Water Indaba held in Rawsonville in May, so Zille knows how much is being done to help the province.

Asked whether Mokonyane would pay the money back, Ratau said, "It’s difficult to say right now considering that no work has been done on the department’s behalf (yet), if ever it will be done.

''This work, if done, will need to be verified as well, and there will be a need for an agreement for this to happen on the department’s behalf.''

The City of Cape Town is currently on Level 4b water restrictions and is encouraging residents not to use more than 87l of water per person per day.

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