Water restored after ‘economic sabotage’

Minister of Water Affairs and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane. Picture: Refilwe Modise

Water supply in Gauteng was restored to all areas on Monday after more than a week of disruptions caused by “economic sabotage”, Water Minister Nomvula Mokonyane said.

“Issues of cable theft should be dealt with as economic sabotage,” she told reporters at the Rand Water depot in Glenvista, south of Johannesburg.

“The justice system must not deal with them as petty crimes, but as economic crimes.”

She was briefing the media alongside Rand Water officials who were confident that the situation had normalised.

“Water has been restored in Johannesburg, Tshwane and Ekurhuleni metros,” Rand Water chairwoman Matshidiso Mayimele-Hashatse said.

She said reservoir levels were not yet at 100 percent, but all were stable. The volumes they had pumped in during the past few days had been higher than normal.

“Water fed to municipalities depends on the municipal systems. We don’t want to pressure their pipes [but] the system is stabilising.”

Rand Water CEO Percy Sechemane said there might still be localised problems.

“There may be localised problems. All affected areas have been normalised. Water is flowing and reaching the areas.”

He could not confirm that every single household had running water.

Mokonyane said the Gauteng water disruptions had been caused by a technical glitch and were not the fault of Rand Water.

“Even though the fault does not lie with Rand Water, we’ve taken collective responsibility. What happened in Gauteng was a technical glitch.”

She denied claims that the province had a water crisis.

On September 15, a City Power transformer failed.

It supplies power to one of Rand Water’s Eikenhof pump stations which feeds a smaller system. The matter was resolved within a week.

On September 21, copper cables from an Eskom power station in Alrode were stolen.

The sub-station supplies power to the Rand Water’s bigger pump station, Palmiet, in Glenvista.

The pump station feeds the Klipriviersberg reservoir which supplies water to areas between Germiston and Pretoria.

Mokonyane said since the incident the security cluster had been included in intervention talks.

“We take the issue of cable theft quite seriously. There are interventions that are being attended to… It requires security, infrastructure and planning.”

Mokonyane said that although the province had experienced water shortages, there had never been a complete water shutdown.

“There was never a 100 percent shutdown. The issue with this experience was the turnaround time in terms of responding.”

Elsewhere in the country, Butterworth and surrounding areas in the Eastern Cape were also without water on Monday, the Amathole district municipality said.

“This situation culminated from a blown-out Eskom transformer which was supplying electricity to our water pumps,” spokeswoman Sisa Sityata-Soga said.

The Bika, Cuba, and Vulli Valley informal settlements and surrounding villages were affected. Water tanks were sent to the areas.

The water supply was restored around 1pm.

In Mpumalanga, major maintenance work on the uSuthu water supply network had been postponed, the DA said on Monday.

“No reasons were given. They don’t have a definite date [when] it will start,” Democratic Alliance MPL Bosman Grobler said.

Residents of Kriel and Thubelihle had expected the outage to start on Monday and last until October 17. They were informed on Saturday that the long-planned maintenance would not start on Monday.

“The DA is aware of elderly residents who decided to take a three-week holiday in order not to have to live carrying buckets of water around. Because of the late announcement, the risk is now real that these residents might return and be in the middle of the dry-tap period.”

The DA expressed concern about the costs the Emalahleni municipality would incur as a result of the postponement.

The municipality could not immediately be reached for comment.


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