Umgeni Water acting chief executive Thami Hlongwa. Picture: Nosipho Mngoma

Despite initial uproars, the City of Cape Town is now in talks regarding Umgeni Water a building desalination plant, which could contribute to moving #DayZero beyond the now projected June 4.

Just as the drought affecting the Western, Eastern and Northern Cape, was declared a national disaster yesterday ((Tue)) the KZN water utility remains ready and willing to assist.

Speaking at an information session at Albert Falls Dam  outside Pietermaritzburg yesterday ((Tue)) Umgeni acting chief executive Thami Hlongwa said negotiations on the terms of conditions for Umgeni to build and commission a desalination plant in the drought stricken city were still underway despite a recent uproar over the perceived imposition of Umgeni on the project by Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

Read: Deputy mayor: City delayed desalination

Cape Town’s  deputy mayor Ian Neilson yesterday told The Mercury that this was due to the instruction from the minister being so “cryptic” and sparse on information, it was “impossible for us to understand. We then raised questions on the basis of that information... we didn’t know how to take it forward.”

He confirmed that they were now in talks to see if the solution involving Umgeni would work for them.

Watch: Hlongwa on "imposition" if Umgeni on Cape Town. 

Umgeni acting chief executive Thami Hlongwa rubbishes claims that the water utility was imposed on Cape Town. Video: Nosipho Mngoma

Hlongwa said the negotiating was: “Part of us working hand in hand to assist with this crisis. Going forward there needs to be thorough planning of resources and that is where we believe- as Umgeni Water- we can be of great value but only if the terms and conditions are agreed to.”

Hlongwa said the challenge with Cape Town was that unlike other big metros, it did not have a water board servicing it. “Cape Town is one of those unique cases that does both bulk and reticulation. So we are coming from a place where we are trying to relieve it from that pressure and rather let them focus on reticulation while - with the department (of water and sanitation)- we assist with the whole bulk planning particularly from the water resource management perspective,” said Hlongwa.

This was all in line with the plan to ultimately have three waterboards or regional water utilities as per the National Development Plan and in tune with Vision 2030 he said. “One of these will cater for KwaZulu-Natal, Eastern Cape and Western Cape. Finding ourselves a footing in Cape Town is us starting with that process, unfortunately we’re stating it during a crisis. But key to it is that we want to have seamless plans, particularly from the future water resource requirements of the city,” said Hlongwa.

The Mercury