HUMAN Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu, has called for a full report on the water challenges in Lekwa Municipality that are disrupting production at Astral’s processing facility.
 African News Agency (ANA)
JOHANNESBURG - Mounting pressure from South Africa’s largest poultry producer saw Human Settlements, Water and Sanitation Minister Lindiwe Sisulu yesterday intervening to resolve water-supply disruptions to Astral Foods’ processing facility in Mpumalanga.

Sisulu announced yesterday she had asked the acting director-general of water and sanitation, Squire Mahlangu, and the director-general of human settlements, Mbulelo Tshangana, to submit a full report on the water challenges affecting Lekwa Municipality, as well as businesses in the area.

Sisulu said she had tasked Mahlangu with meeting with the municipality and businesses to discuss short-, medium- and long-term solutions.

Deputy Minister of Human Settlements David Mahlobo was expected to meet with Astral and the municipality as soon as possible.

“Astral Food is a big employer in that municipality; they have also offered to assist in resolving some of the challenges.

“It is our responsibility to now get everybody around the table and find long-term solutions for the people of Lekwa and the businesses,” Sisulu said.

South Africa’s poultry industry is under pressure because of cheap imports from the US, Brazil and the EU and has been shedding jobs.

Sisulu said she was scheduled to meet with MECs, mayors, and officials to identify priorities for the sector.

Sisulu said: “The president has directed that all of us work with all stakeholders to grow the economy and create jobs, and, as water and sanitation, we must resolve these challenges so that companies can focus on creating jobs, training youth and growing the economy.”

Astral on Monday lashed out at the government, saying that the deterioration of the municipality’s water infrastructure had led to water-supply disruptions at its poultry processing plant costing the company at least R85million up until the end of June.

Cliff Johnston, the vice-chairperson of the South African National Consumer Union, called on the government to act swiftly to address water supply constraints, as these threatened to result in a rise in prices.

“While infrastructure failure has an adverse impact on industry, in the long run it impacts consumers. We urge the minister to address the problem,” said Johnston.