DA opens case against Joburg MMC over water shortages

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Mpho Moerane
Mpho Moerane
Sharon Seretlo/Gallo Images via Getty Images
  • Last week, parts of Joburg's southern suburbs were without water for over a week. 
  • The water crisis prompted DA councillors to open a case against MMC Mpho Moerane.
  • Benoit le Roy, from the South African Water Chamber, says legal action should be a last resort. 

The DA in the City of Joburg opened a case against the member of the mayoral committee (MMC) for environment and infrastructure services, Mpho Moerane, with regard to the ongoing water cuts and shortages in parts of the city's southern suburbs. 

Last week, residents from South Hills marched to Rand Water's headquarters after going a week without water. It prompted various DA ward councillors to open a case on Saturday. 

SAPS spokesperson Lieutenant-Colonel Mavela Masondo confirmed that a case of interference with water supply had been opened at Moffatview police station, and it was being investigated.

READ | City Power suspends CEO over allegations of wrongdoing at previous Eskom job

The water outages affected South Hills, Linmeyer, Risana, Tulisa Park, parts of Oakdene and parts of Rosettenville Extension - and it resulted in the shutting down of schools.

Benoit le Roy, from the South African Water Chamber, said the legal system should be a last resort as it is not a quick fix for water shortage issues. 

Le Roy said: 

For the last 10 years, court cases have been won in the high Court by the people of Emfuleni, but where are they now? They are water-less, electricity-less and asset-less. The legal system is a last resort. Unfortunately, this is not a quick fix. It's been a slow-onset disaster. It started about 30 years ago, and what's happened has been ignored by the politicians.

In August, water utility Rand Water implemented water restrictions in the province's three metros due to pressure in its water network.

On Monday, Rand Water's Justice Mohale told News24 the issue had since been resolved. 

"Since last week, we have been pumping normally. We have had no issues," Mohale said. 

Water shortages and security have become a persistent and ongoing issue in the province, which Le Roy says can be attributed to population growth, badly maintained infrastructure, and a lack of prioritisation of water.

"The growth in demand (of water) is 4% per annum, purely on population growth in Gauteng. So, over 10 years, that means there will be 40% less water available per person. What's happening is we've got this 4% population growth, which is principally urbanisation-driven because of poverty in the rural areas, and, and I think migration from other provinces and from up north, but if you have a look at it, Rand Water cannot pump more than what it's allowed to because, if it did, we would empty the integrated Vaal River system. (The fact) that it's full now is an aberration," he said. 

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Rand Water has also exceeded the limit of what its licence permits it to take from the Vaal Dam.

"Rand Water has been exceeding its water use licence for a few years now. What that means is they have a permit from the water and sanitation department to extract a certain amount of water from the Vaal River and the Vaal Dam, which is all linked to the integrated Vaal River system."

Le Roy estimated that a third of the water was lost due to leaks in the system, which are not being fixed.

He said:

The water infrastructure designed for 40 to 50 years is 100 years old. The newest was really built after the Second World War and, in the last three decades, we have done close to nothing. You are supposed to replace your assets at about 7 or 8% per annum, which means over 15 years, you've got new assets. In SA, we are not doing that, so I'm not saying it's because of looting; looting is just one of the ingredients. It is because water is not a priority.

"I don't believe we are wasteful as individuals, and I take exception to government saying that we are... it's because the wastage is, in actual fact, in the municipal delivery system. There is leaking that is not maintained. That's where the wastage is. It's not in use in our households in general." 

Globally, Le Roy said, water needed to be better prioritised. 

"What's happening, generally speaking, globally, is that water and wastewater infrastructure, which are interconnected, have not been priorities, like education, telecommunications, food security and the likes, but water is not really deemed as a big issue until your taps run dry. And day zero works South Africa up out of a deep coma of denial."

He said that, as far as the country was concerned, there needed to be better accountability:

We, as a society, are to blame because it's not a South African issue. It is a global issue, where we, as a society, have not prioritised water security. We only worry when the taps run dry. We are responsible for holding municipalities accountable. In South Africa, we are particularly bad at doing that, so that is a South African problem and not a global problem.

Le Roy said he hoped that the recent gazetting of the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure's draft National Infrastructure Plan 2050 (NIP 2050) would aid in holding the government accountable for failing infrastructure. 

"What that (NIP 2050) has in it is a lot of language, which the water chamber has been involved in to reinstate our water security. And a lot of the actions have got dates to them. And we are going to, through the media and other sources, we are going to hold them accountable to that," he said.

The City of Joburg did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the case opened by the DA. Their comment will be added once received. 

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