eThekwini mayor Zandile Gumede. File picture

OPINION - Wednesday, May 22 - 12pm. 

It has now been more than 53 hours since my eThekwini Municipal water meter burst and began spraying a fountain of water onto my front lawn. The gushing water is so intense that if you close your eyes and listened to it, you'd swear that it sounds like hard rain pelting the ground.

When the meter first burst on Monday morning, my wife immediately called the eThekwini call centre to report the leak and was given reference number F190520/308.

If the reference number is sequential, it seems that we were number 308 to have reported a fault to the eThekwini engineering services contact centre by 7.30am on Monday.

At the time when we called in the fault, we believed that the issue would get resolved pretty quickly. 

In the five years living at our home in Manor Gardens, our water meter has needed to be replaced at least three times - and on each of those occasions, a plumber was sent out within a few short hours. Once they even came within an hour.

My wife had to stay at home on Monday to wait for a city plumber to arrive. By midday and with still, no word from the plumbers she called again. She explained that it was urgent and that thousands of litres of fresh drinking water were literally going down the drain. A call centre agent promised to escalate the issue. 

Between us we must have called the municipality more than eight times on Monday alone. We were eventually told by a call centre agent after our umpteenth call on Tuesday that the water and sanitation department was faced with a huge backlog as a result of the more than week-long municipal worker strike that ended on May 7.

eThekwini municipal workers from various departments downed tools and some trashed the city earlier this month when it emerged that the city had given a small group of uMkhonto we Siziwe Military Veterans salary 100 per cent increases while thousands of them had not been regraded for years.

The MK vets salary increases, according to some in the city are the direct result of Mayor Zandile Gumede appeasing a faction of the ANC that brought her to power in the eThekwini Region.

A fountain of water has been spraying on the front lawn of Durban journalist Lee Rondganger for over 52 hours. The city is facing a massive backlog in fixing leaks after a week-long strike by municipal workers. Picture: Lee Rondganger

On Tuesday my wife stayed at home again and waited for the city plumbers to arrive. Thousands upon thousands of litres of clean fresh water had been wasted at this point and we were powerless to do anything about it. A family friend who is a plumber told us that it is an offence for non contracted city plumber to interfere with the city's water meter. We eventually got a hold of someone who is contracted to the city in an effort to plug the leak but are told that unless they are given job card by the city they will not get paid. Another dead end and the water continues to gush into the drain.

I had however managed to figure out how to turn the water meter off and was able to stop further water wastage. But it means no water is going into my house and when we do need water we have to turn the meter back on and the fountain on the lawn returns

By Wednesday afternoon I shudder to imagine how much water we have lost and what our water bill will be. Sure, we have water insurance but that does not negate the fact tens of thousands of litres of fresh water has gone down the drain while we live in a water-scarce country where the taps in entire towns have gone dry because of drought.

According to city reports, the eThekwini Municipality lost more than R600m due to water loss in the 2017/2018 financial year. Imagine what could be done -in terms of service delivery - with more than a half a billion rand?

As I write this, I have had to ask my editors to allow me to work from home so that I can be here when the city plumbers do arrive - if they even arrive today. The eThekwini Municipality cannot tell us when a plumbing crew will be sent out. 

Not many people are in the fortunate position that I am in and I shudder to think of the wider economic loss to our city if my experience is micro-ism or a snapshot of what thousands of other people are experiencing.

It makes one even angrier to think that this is all the result of our mayor who chose to serve the interest of her political base and not the people and the workers of the city.

Update: A plumbing team from the eThekwini Municipality repaired the leak on Thursday, May 23 at 8am.

Lee Rondganger is the Live Editor of the Daily News

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