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‘Umkhanyakude lacks capacity to solve its decades-old water crisis’ - Minister Mchunu

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu. | Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS.

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu. | Ntswe Mokoena/GCIS.

Published May 26, 2022

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Durban - Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu has painted a grim picture of the decades-old water crisis in Umkhanyakude District Municipality in northern KwaZulu-Natal, saying that despite millions of rand being pumped in to resolve the crisis, results were not forthcoming.

Mchunu, who took over the portfolio in August last year following a Cabinet reshuffle, told the Daily News during an interview that his conclusion, after having seven meetings on the matter, was that the municipality did not have the capacity to resolve the crisis. Umkhanyakude includes areas such as Jozini, Umhlabuyalinga and Hlabisa. For more than 30 years, these communities have complained about not having clean water, despite the proximity of Jozini Dam.

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In the past, the stumbling block was that the dam, which was built during the apartheid era, was only legislated to provide commercial farmers with irrigation water. Some water was used to supply big businesses in the district.

Mchunu said that despite the district subsequently being allowed to draw water from the dam for household use, they were underutilising the permit enabling them to do so.

To make the matters worse, Mchunu said the district municipality did not even collect the necessary data that could help to solve the water crisis.

“They don’t know what their assets are and their conditions; there is very little, if any, information of that aspect as a water authority. We then said because of these things we have taken a decision to intervene in this municipality … One, there is no capacity to generate that data, and two, there is no data, to a larger extent, on many things. And then there was data on very few things. But the next thing is that they were not even co-operating, that is officials to officials,” Mchunu said.

He added that because of the lack of accurate data they were forced to send their own engineers to do an assessment.

The detailed assessment painted a different picture. Furthermore, Mchunu told the Daily News that as part of his department’s efforts to try to resolve the water crisis, he had met the top leaders of the ANC in the region (Far North region).

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The meeting was attended, among others, by Siphile Mdaka, currently one of “two mayors” of the district municipality that is crippled by a power struggle. Mchunu claimed that Mdaka made a bizarre request, that the department must pump in more money and provide engineers so that they could overcome the challenge.

Mchunu told Mdaka (who is the ANC’s regional chairperson) and his team that he would be violating the law if he did so because they were under administration.

He also indicated that the department at one point had pumped in about R70 million to the district, and there were no results to show for it.

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However, Mdaka disputed Mchunu’s claims that he requested extra funding during their meeting.

He said that they were exploring ways to address the water challenge, and he wanted them to be helped with capacity-building.

Daily News

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