Durban - A provincial government campaign on how to save water turned into a platform for hundreds of angry residents of Inanda, KwaMashu and Ntuzuma to vent their grievances on Tuesday about the lack of service delivery.
The province and city’s top brass attended the “War on water leaks” campaign, but Nigel Gumede, the city’s human settlements and infrastructure chairman, was heckled by irate residents.
Premier Senzo Mchunu, who launched the campaign, had to pacify the angry crowd, who complained about everything from the lack of water and electricity to jobs.
MEC for Co-operative Governance and Traditional Affairs, Nomusa Dube-Ncube, said: “Please tell us if we have made mistakes, but do not go outside to protest and for us to see you burning tyres.”
She said the government was aware “that water is a huge issue, we deal with it on a constant basis around the province”.
Dube-Ncube, who hails from KwaMashu, blamed the problem partly on climate change and the fact that boreholes and rivers were drying up.
She said solutions would not come overnight.
“We are not saying the department should take its time, but there has to be planning.”
The three townships experienced water loss of between 45 and 82 percent, according to the government.
Ntuzuma resident Fikile Khumalo said: “We go to sleep on empty stomachs. My father is sick. I have no electricity, water and not even a toilet. We are struggling, we want to be able to feed our children.”
She and her family had to take baths at her neighbour’s house.
Phumzile Buthelezi, also from Ntuzuma, said: “Our houses were demolished and when they were rebuilt they were smaller than they initially were.” This had caused her a lot of stress.
Another resident, Linda Khumalo, said the community was tired of not getting responses from the municipality when they aired their grievances. He saw the non response “as a sign of disrespect”.
“We burn tyres because we are angry and not because we are crazy,” Khumalo said, adding that the water crisis had caused some of them having to go to work not having had a bath.
Mchunu said he was aware of the problems. “We want to deal with the issues as quickly as possible.”
The government wanted to provide water, but the water should be of a decent quality and “not give people cholera”.
But people should not have to walk long distances to get water, the premier said, explaining that pipes were being installed in parts of the province to address the water shortages.
Mchunu urged the communities to take responsibility for the infrastructure when it is built, saying they should not make illegal water connections, as the culprits ended up being a burden on people who paid their bills.
The premier, also the ANC’s KwaZulu-Natal chairman, said the vandalism which was used during apartheid as a way to fight the government should be stopped as it was hampering service delivery.
After being heckled by the crowd, Gumede, responded to some of their complaints. He said the houses that had to be demolished and rebuilt were done as part of a project aimed at replacing old and “derelict” structures.
The reason the concrete block houses ended up being smaller was because they were “measured on the inside of the house, and not on the outside as was supposed to be the case”.
He said the complaints would be addressed.
Some of the problems were a result of miscommunication.
He said people who were seeking employment should put their names in a “database”, explaining they could be called if an opportunity arose.