KZN district municipality blames protests, vandalism for rural community’s water woes

Dry tap. Picture: AFP / File / Peter PARKS

Community members say they have gone for at least two months without water being supplied through their taps.

A rural community in KwaZulu-Natal in the King Cetshwayo district has been without water supply for about two months, during a period when constant sanitisation is crucial as one measure to curb the spread of Covid-19.

The lack of water supply has made life difficult for residents in ward 24, Ndlangubo, under the uMlalazi Municipality in the northern parts of the province.

The troubling situation led to community member Mduduzi Ngcobo taking it upon himself to see if water could be supplied via water tankers that he said were filled up at a “water point” in Empangeni.

He said, however, that his efforts resulted to nought when he was told by an official at the “water point” that water tankers could not be sent to the ward because water in the said area was supplied through taps.

Ngcobo said he eventually managed to negotiate with the truck drivers at the “water point” for two tankers to supply water in the area.

He said, however, that this, too, was questioned, with some in the community, including leaders and ordinary community members, questioning how the tankers had supplied water in the area because it has piped water supplied via taps.

Ngcobo said the situation has some within the community on edge, with others threatening to go on strike.

The local Induna, Mr Masondo said the issue of a lack of water supply is an old one which has gotten worse in the past two months.

Masondo said before the supply of water worsened to its current state, water would scarcely flow through the taps.

The Induna said since there is no forthcoming communication as to why there is no water in the area, as a traditional leader there is no reason he can give to community members.

Masondo said last week, either on Monday or Tuesday, the drivers of the water tankers that were in the area to supply water had to cut their delivery of water short because they said they feared it would cost them their jobs as they were being admonished by their superiors for supplying water in the area.

Masondo said the situation had forced some residents to fetch water from local dams.

The area’s councillor, Agripa Dlamini said the problem in the area started when a contract to supply water was terminated, valves and pumps and other water infrastructure were vandalised which has resulted in the supply of water being cut.

A community member said the vandalism was allegedly done by contract workers who were not paid for the month of May.

Dlamini said some water tankers do deliver water in the area and these prioritised areas where there were no dams close by and there were no taps.

The district municipality said: “The volume of supply is affected when demand becomes greater than the capacity of the reticulation system.

“Ndlangubo, being the furthest point on the network, gets affected the most whenever there are supply interruptions.”

Its public relations manager Rekha Naidoo said community protests were to blame for the interruption in the supply of water during the month of July “in all supply areas of the district”.

“This had a huge impact on the supply coverage, particularly in areas that are supplied through bulk systems, KwaHlokohloko being one of them.

“This did not only affect ward 24 but a number of other wards including Wards 9, 10, 25, 26 and 27,” said Naidoo.

She said though the protests declined in August, the supply of water continued to be interrupted due to “sabotage and vandalism within the network, as well as power supply interruptions in the form of Eskom load shedding at the source”.

“Under normal circumstances, the system takes about two to three weeks to recover but with the above challenges, the recovery period has been prolonged.  The good news is that the system is now showing signs of recovery and some areas of Ndlangubo started getting water supply over the weekend but not the entire area. Their supply will be starting again on Thursday. We are confident that the coverage will be much better than the past weekend.

“Due to a limited budget for water tankers, we have prioritised tanker deliveries to routes or areas that do not have any potable, piped water supply as a source,” Naidoo said.

She urged residents to report water queries to the following numbers: Tollfree: 080 011 1258 or 035 787 3737.

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