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Johannesburg - The water crisis in the Madibeng municipality, in North West, is not a sudden problem, as claimed by Water and Environmental Affairs Minister Edna Molewa, the DA said on Wednesday.
“The crisis has not been the result, as the minister has implied, of a sudden and unexpected breakdown of the water pumps in Madibeng,” Democratic Alliance provincial leader Chris Hattingh said in a statement.
“During her explanation to the community of Mothutlung, Minister Molewa failed to state that two of the three water pumps... serving the Mothutlung and Damonsville communities, had been out of service for more than two years.”
On Tuesday, Molewa promised Mothutlung residents, near Brits, water before the weekend.
“Water will be back by Friday,” she told residents. She was there with Police Minister Nathi Mthethwa after visiting the families of two men killed during violent protests in the township on Monday.
Police allegedly shot them while they were en route to the Madibeng municipality with other residents to demand water.
Beeld newspaper named them as mineworker Osia Rahube and a photographer known only as Bra Mike.
A third man died after he allegedly tried to escape from a moving Nyala armoured vehicle.
Molewa said three local water pumps in the area had broken down, which she said was a “very strange problem”.
According to Molewa, under normal circumstances, when one of the pumps failed, the remaining two were supposed to keep operating. The same problem had been seen in three other areas. She promised to investigate and to punish anyone found to be at fault.
The area has been without running water for three months and water tankers arrive every three days.
North West premier Thandi Modise's spokesman Lesiba Kgwele said there was no reason not to believe the minister.
“People in the area... believe an act of sabotage took place by people who want to continue tanking,” he said, referring to the water tankers.
“We need to investigate this particular water interruption, as it has happened frequently as a result of people involved in tanking.”
He said residents were clear they did not want to use water tanks from private service providers. People suspected the pumps had been sabotaged to keep these providers in business.
“That is where a investigation is required in that regard, not where the DA is muddying the waters for electioneering,” said Kgwele.
“It is political grandstanding. The lives of the people there need to be brought to normality.”
Hattingh said the municipality had not cared enough to repair the pumps before. When the third pump, which was larger than the other two, broke down, people were left with only the water remaining in the reservoirs.
“After the national outcry this week, all three pumps were sent in for repair on Tuesday,” he said.
“One will be operational later today (Wednesday), another one will be back in operation before Friday, while the bigger pump should be functional during the weekend.”
He said this was not the first time Mothutlung had gone without water.
“Minister Molewa should expand her investigation. Four of the other nine pumps providing water to communities in the Madibeng municipality have also been dysfunctional for months,” Hattingh said.
“One of these pumps has disappeared.”
Kgwele called on political parties not to be opportunistic.
“For the DA, it's black on black on violence from which they seek to get political mileage,” Kgwele said.
Molewa's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.