Water crisis: facts and fantasies

Ugu Municipal Manager DD Naidoo.

NEAR panic set in over the festive season as many parts of the South Coast suffered without water, mainly due to the sabotage of the Ugu municipal water system, prior to a strike by its entire workforce, just before Christmas.

Social media went wild and understandably so, although many of the angry comments were fuelled by emotions and not facts.

In an attempt to put matters into perspective, the Herald thought it would be useful to differentiate fact from fiction.

* Would the current Ugu water supply system have been able to cope with the influx of holiday people under normal circumstances? Yes. The sabotage and strike were unforeseen. It happened right before huge crowds converged on the coast and the reservoirs, particularly Ramsgate and Port Edward, never had a chance to recover.

* If municipal manager DD Naidoo and exco had refused to pay their workers their demands for R13-million (which was negotiated down from R120-million), would the entire Ugu district have been thrown into chaos? Definitely.

* Will the money ‘come out of the pockets of the public’? No. The money wasn’t budgeted for, but will be repaid to Ugu’s coffers by June 30 through belt-tightening and cutting of ‘non-core’ expenses. No services to the public will be affected.

* Has anyone been identified for sabotaging the system yet? A case has been opened and the Hawks are investigating.

* Did Mr Naidoo, the deputy mayor, speaker and some councillors ‘go into hiding’ during the saga’? Definitely not. Mr Naidoo and other senior staff forfeited their annual leave. Mr Naidoo spent every day in the operations room throughout the season. The mayor, Councillor Obert Tolomane Mnyayiza, was gravely ill and was admitted to hospital the day of negotiations with the striking workforce. Yet he still phoned and messaged Mr Naidoo from his hospital bed for updates and to give support. He died shortly afterwards.

Meanwhile, Mr Naidoo, the deputy mayor and the speaker were in constant contact with relevant ministers and their departments in both provincial and national government.

* What is the national government or province doing about this? Mr Naidoo will be providing them with a full, written report.

* Were the water problems ‘only in coastal areas’? Definitely not. Many areas inland were, in fact, even worse off. Some inland residents also took to social media and councillors representing other wards did their best to help. However, many people living in rural areas have suffered from water problems for years and, sadly, resigned themselves to the situation.

* Did ward councillors and other individuals do their best to help? Definitely yes. However, their good intentions were uncoordinated – often confusing – and an emergency strategy meeting should have been called earlier than Monday this week. Live and learn.

* Was the entire coast affected? No. Port Edward and Ramsgate were hardest hit. Barring a few individuals and isolated locations, water was restored relatively quickly in other areas and the vast majority of holiday people enjoyed the good weather.

* Can one label Ugu management ‘incompetent’? Some have on social media, but many others would call that unfair, cruel and with political motives in mind.

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