Durban — The replacement of valves is key to eliminating problems in supplying drinking water to communities north of Durban.
This is according to eThekwini Municipality officials, speaking at a feedback meeting of members of the Phoenix and Verulam communities on Saturday, to address the water crisis in their area.
They told those attending they anticipated this work would be completed by the middle of next month.
Communities to the north of Durban, including Inanda, Ntuzuma and KwaMashu, have long been without a steady supply of water. Verulam residents took to the streets in protest last week after being without water for three months.
Jabulani Mayise, eThekwini’s acting deputy head for water operations, said they had anticipated a problem with water supply to the north from November 2018, when Umgeni Water’s Durban Heights Reservoir 3 – one of the largest potable water storage facilities in the Durban area, and which supplies the northern areas – was taken out of service for rehabilitation work. Mayise said Reservoir 2 had to be used in the interim to supply both the north and south areas.
“We have two pipelines to the north. When the reservoir was depleted, we switched to the smaller pipeline at night. Last year, Reservoir 3 was finally commissioned, but the floods caused some damage to the aqueducts,” he explained.
Mayise said the northern aqueduct pipeline had 72 air valves, which were also badly damaged.
“We have completed changing the valves as far as Newlands. Sixty air valves arrived on Friday. We have started replacing them section by section.
“We anticipate that by February 15 it should be completed. We have cleared all the bush to make way to replace them. We know there has been significant growth in Phoenix and a new aqueduct is being laid to Phoenix soon. This will eliminate airlocks.”
DA MPL Bradley Singh rejected a claim by eThekwini mayor Mxolisi Kaunda that there was a programme of action.
Singh said the situation in the northern areas of Durban regarding water cuts and service delivery issues was particularly tense and frustrating for residents. He said a lack of transparency and accountability had fuelled distrust and anger among Phoenix, Tongaat, Verulam, Mount Edgecombe, Parkgate, Ottawa, Umhlanga, La Lucia, Durban North, Sunningdale and Greenwood Park residents, who felt neglected in terms of service delivery, despite the high rates they paid.
Singh said he was concerned about the large police contingent present, which created an intimidating atmosphere, undermining the purpose of public dialogue.
“This suggests a focus on controlling the population rather than addressing their concerns. The meeting was dominated by self-praise from the mayor and selective responses to questions, further frustrating residents seeking genuine solutions. There was a lack of direct and concise answers, coupled with perceived insensitivity in responses,” Singh said.
Councillor Mdu Nkosi of the Inkatha Freedom Party and an eThekwini Municipality exco member said the mayor blaming councillors for not liaising with the community was not valid. Nkosi said councillors were equally as frustrated as residents for not receiving responses.
“Kaunda is the first citizen and must provide the answers, solutions and give hope, but instead he did not. Water is a necessity. Each financial year we debate where the loan of more than a billion rand is spent. They must show where the community benefited from the money,” he said.
Roshan Lil-Ruthan, spokesperson for the Verulam Water Crisis Committee, said they did not attend the meeting because they were not formally invited, despite being a recognised organisation. Lil-Ruthan said they had repeatedly requested appointments with Kaunda, but all their requests had been ignored.
“The meeting has been scheduled in Phoenix, while the Verulam and surrounding suburbs communities have been the worst affected by this catastrophic water crisis. We have a suitable venue. It is unjust to expect poor communities to bear the burden of travelling to Phoenix via public transportation for a meeting that concerns their urgent needs,” he said.
“The approach taken thus far has been inadequate. We seek to discuss the matter with the [Water and Sanitation] Minister Senzo Mchunu. On Friday, we had our first war room meeting with the South African Human Rights Council and eThekwini Water Services. We reiterated that any lack of communication and transparency will be the catalyst for communities becoming irate. We have repeatedly called for calm and stability, but eThekwini Municipality does not support our endeavours,” he said.
Democratic Liberal Congress Leader Patrick Pillay said he hoped the mayors' report-back meeting would yield positive results. Pillay said the City has neglected to address the primary issues of water infrastructure replacement and maintenance.
“Officials have failed miserably to ensure that the reservoirs are in absolute working condition. The officials are employed to do their job and it must be done properly without any interference. The DLC will be monitoring the progress very closely with the City,” Pillay said.
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