WATER CRISIS: Is it sabotage? ‘Yes’, say sources

File Photo.

ARE the South Coast’s water systems still being ‘sabotaged’ by Ugu municipal workers or their henchmen?

That’s the suspicion among residents and even in ruling party circles.

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Nobody is prepared to go on record for fear of the backlash – “which could be deadly”, said one source – but there just seems to be no other rational reason for the many continuing disruptions to supply to parts of the coast, with no warning and sometimes lasting for days.

South Coast communities, including some councillors, have now had enough of ‘excuses with no solutions’ from Ugu.

Thousands of people have suffered ever since the festive season, when Ugu workers first went on strike over a dubious death and disability payout. During the strike, pipes and pumps were sabotaged and municipal manager DD Naidoo even opened a case with the police.

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So far, no one has been arrested and fears that these investigations would come to nothing seem to be coming true.

Meanwhile, pipes randomly continue to burst, water leaks abound, reservoirs are often too low to flow and brown water comes out of taps.

It seems that Ugu officials and even hastily-appointed sub-contractors are constantly hopping from one crisis to another.

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If speculation is correct about Ugu ground workers allegedly ‘holding a gun’ to the municipality’s head, the coast is in real trouble.

The DA has now urgently called on province and the government to step in.

Reliable sources informed the Herald that Ugu workers were not happy about certain cost-cutting measures – like cutting overtime – by management to rescue the municipality from bankruptcy, which it was about to face four years ago.

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Workers were apparently paid overtime to fix burst pipes or leaks after hours.

This was stopped and the workers were not happy about it.

Ugu also apparently decided to outsource some services, which incurred even more anger among workers.

“General workers, such as plumbers, who would initially earn R6 500, were suddenly getting paid double or triple the amount due to overtime. It had to stop,” said the source.

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In retaliation, it is believed the workers are now sabotaging the system to get the public’s reaction and, ultimately, force Ugu to bring back overtime.

What the municipality says now:

The municipality has been accused of hiding the true facts about the situation and not communicating with stakeholders.

At a Ray Nkonyeni municipal meeting on Tuesday, councillors demanded to know why their colleagues at Ugu were not present to explain the crisis.

Speaker, Councillor Doctor Njoko, announced that the item would be added to the next agenda.

Ugu spokesman France Zama told the Herald that, due to the sensitive nature of the issue, they were unable to give more details until investigations were finalised.

However, he confirmed that ‘tampering and interference with the municipality’s infrastructures’ was being investigated.

“This emanates from the recent strike action and reports of suspected elements interfering with our infrastructure. State security agencies were contacted and their investigation is currently under way.”

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Mr Zama admitted that the situation was getting worse, but said they were doing everything within their abilities to minimise impact.

They were also trying to find a lasting solution to mitigate infrastructure challenges.

Meanwhile, SAMWU chairman Clive Mzobe denied the alleged sabotage. He told the Herald that he was not aware of the matter and believed his SAMWU members were responsible workers.

“If workers had a problem with management, they would raise it at management level instead of reacting in such a manner.”

Mr Zama also said that they would, in the near future, be outlining their implementation plan to the public.

He was also confident that they would overcome such challenges and fulfil their obligation to provide effective water and sanitation services to the public.

“We will continue this path, no matter how many stones are thrown at us.”

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