#WaterCrisis – no end in sight, says Ugu

Frustrated Ugu management (from left) Ugu GM Vela Mazibuko, municipal manager DD Naidoo and spokesman France Zama address media on Tuesday this week.

Not even Ugu District Municipality knows when the ongoing water crisis will end as no talks between the striking South African Municipal Workers’ Union (Samwu) members and Ugu management have taken place.

Hopefully, today’s (Thursday) meeting between KZN Premier Willies Mchunu, several MECs, Ugu management and union representatives will see the resumption of services and the thirsty South Coast receiving water after more than two long, dry weeks.

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Until then, those who have water are encouraged to use it sparingly as there is currently no clear indication of when supply will be fully restored to all areas.

Meanwhile, furious consumers from around the South Coast have flooded the Herald with calls, asking when they will be able to bathe and resume normal day-to-day activities.

Threats, intimidation of contractors, pipe breaks, damage to infrastructure and lack of water have been hallmarks of the fortnight since Samwu workers downed tools and went on strike.

Embattled Ugu officials have had to face the wrath of a community forced to bear the brunt of the crisis resulting from the municipality’s internal politics.

While supply has been restored to some areas, most are still badly affected.

Water gushes from the Izotsha pump station last Friday, apparently as a result of sabotage. PHOTO BY SUGAN NAIDOO

Several schools have also reportedly been forced to close early, while hospitals are struggling to provide adequate services.

The water outage continues unabated despite a promise from Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta) MEC Nomusa Dube-Ncube that the crisis would be dealt with last weekend.

On Tuesday this week, municipal manager DD Naidoo said the municipality had been faced with a series of damaged infrastructure and bulk supply challenges which had subsequently aggravated an already serious problem.

Once again, cases of vandalism had been opened with the police and a call was made to police minister Bheki Cele, asking him to intervene.

Mr Naidoo said the municipality was looking into installing CCTV cameras in places where there is critical infrastructure, a move discussed at a joint meeting between Cogta, both local mayors, Ugu management and technical officials over the weekend.

According to Mr Naidoo, the municipality was still trying to negotiate with the union, but pointed out that the ‘no work, no pay’ policy would be enforced.

Under the terms of their suspension, however, the shop stewards would receive full pay.

Samwu chairman Mthandeni Ngcobo has refuted claims that the union was involved with the vandalism of infrastructure, instead accusing Ugu management of refusing to meet with them.

“We just want to talk about the unlawful deductions they are making from our salaries as well as other matters – including our suspension – but Ugu is not interested,” Mr Ngcobo said.

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He added that union representatives had met with the premier, who had agreed to meet with them again today (Thursday).

Ugu mayor Mondli Chiliza has come out and said he was ‘very sorry’ about the situation.

The mayor said claims that he had disappeared during the ongoing water crisis were not true.

In an interview with the Herald, he said he had been in ‘back to back’ meetings with the premier.

“I am very sorry about the mess we are currently faced with, but we are trying our best to ensure water is restored to the frustrated communities.”

The mayor said it saddened him that, while the municipality had been trying to fix the problems, certain people were vandalising the infrastructure meant to supply people with this basic human right.

Asked if he thought the vandalism had been politically motivated, the mayor said he was ‘not aware of such’.

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  AUTHOR
Zimasa Mgwili
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