Durban - The previous administration is to blame for the ongoing water woes in Roosboom, according to residents.
Situated between Ladysmith and Colenso, the area has been without proper water and sanitation facilities for more than 20 years.
Resident Dumisani Mtshali claims that tender rigging and favouritism caused the problem.
“When the municipality was under the Inkatha Freedom Party, officials siphoned millions of rand through tenders that were awarded to friends and comrades. Instead of installing water pipes, they gave tenders for water tankers to supply the area,” Mtshali said.
Mthokozisi Zwane, who led the five-day protest, agreed with Mtshali, saying the previous administration at the municipality enriched themselves at the expense of the poor.
“For more than 20 years we’ve had no water supply, and things haven’t changed. This has to stop,” said Zwane.
On Friday, the fifth day of road closures, municipal representatives addressed the community on measures in place to provide water, sanitation and other services.
Tyres and rubbish were burnt during the protests, and it was agreed that the R103, which runs between the two towns, would be cleared of the debris.
Ashley Starkey, chief director at the provincial Department of Water Affairs, said the provision of water and sanitation services brought challenges such as effective operation and maintenance.
“A project to deliver water here was initiated 10 years ago, but for various reasons it could not be completed. There were allegedly problems with an unsuitable and incompetent contractor,” Starkey said.
He added that before the protests, water had been provided by four water tankers, each with a 16 000-litre capacity.
uThukela will spend R2 million on building and commissioning a pipeline to supply water to the area.
“As the oversight authority, it is our mandate to ensure sustainable water services are provided to our communities. This project was initiated in October last year and the pipeline is expected to be ready for commissioning by the end of August.
“Because of its priority, the project is being managed by a senior official from the Water Services Department. When the pipeline is commissioned, water will be in the pipeline,” Starkey said.
Attempts to get comment from former municipal manager Siya Nkehli and former mayor Mqapheli Sithole were unsuccessful.