Barberton protesters block roads over water shortages

Barberton protesters block roads over water shortages

Dry tap. Picture: AFP / File / Peter PARKS

Residents have destroyed some of the JoJo-tanks in the township. Two were set alight, a few were broken while others have been stolen.

The suburb of Umjindi in Barberton, Mpumalanga, has been cut off for a third day running as protesters barricaded Voortrekker Street, the only entrance into the town.

Residents are protesting over the current water crisis.

For several months, Barberton has suffered a major water shortage due to a crippling drought. The town’s main water supply, the Lomati Dam in the Makhonjwa mountains, currently sits at 15.5% full. Heavy water restrictions have been in place since October last year.

The Mbombela Municipality in Nelspruit, which is responsible for Barberton’s administration, said water was being supplied to residents in JoJo tanks.

However, Joseph Ngala, the municipality’s spokesperson, said efforts to fill these tanks were being hampered by residents.

“The safety of our employees and property is at stake. We are exploring possibilities to obtaining support from the police for protection,” he added.

An Umjindi resident, Mackeven Thwala, said on Facebook the lack of communication between the council and residents was aggravating the situation.

“Councillors need to call meetings to inform communities. Knowledge is power,” he added

Ngala said residents had destroyed some of the JoJo-tanks in the township, adding two were set alight, a few were broken while others have been stolen.

“All councillors, from both the ANC and DA, are frustrated. We are being kept in the dark by the mayor and top management about plans to resolve the crisis,” an ANC councillor, who wanted to remain anonymous out of fear of intimidation, told News24.

On Thursday morning, Umjindi residents disrupted a municipal demarcation board (MDB) meeting in Nelspruit.

They insisted Barberton should be removed from the control of the Mbombela Municipality and declared an autonomous council as it had previously been.

In response, the MDB said in a statement it had noted the disruption with concern, stating it had previously made it clear the outer boundary matter would only be dealt with after the local government elections in 2021.

“If communities continue in this manner and disrupt MDB meetings, they will miss an opportunity to directly engage with us. however, they can still fill in forms accessible on the MDB website and submit their proposals by April 2020,” MDB member Jane Thupana said.

Mayor Sibusiso Matonsi was not immediately available for a response as he was at a community meeting.

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