THE South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is facing a “humanitarian crisis” due to ongoing water outages that are causing untold destruction to the tourism industry, driving away tourists and forcing businesses to relocate or shut down.
THE South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is facing a “humanitarian crisis” due to ongoing water outages that are causing untold destruction to the tourism industry, driving away tourists and forcing businesses to relocate or shut down.

KZN South Coast facing water outage ’humanitarian crisis’

By Thami Magubane Time of article published Dec 17, 2020

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Durban - THE South Coast of KwaZulu-Natal is facing a “humanitarian crisis” due to ongoing water outages that are causing untold destruction to the tourism industry, driving away tourists and forcing businesses to relocate or shut down.

Fed-up guest house owners have given up on the Ugu District Municipality’s ability to fix the water problems and have resorted to spending money on their own water supply in order to keep their businesses open.

The area is facing another bout of water outages that have been blamed on sabotage, either by disgruntled employees or contractors looking for tenders.

The South Coast, a popular tourism destination, consists of 81 municipal wards that culminate in local municipalities including Ray Nkonyeni, Umzumbe, Umdoni and Umuziwabantu. The region also boasts 42 traditional authorities.

The DA yesterday described the situation as a “humanitarian crisis”, saying almost 150 000 residents of the South Coast had been without water for the past 16 days.

Ugu acting municipal manager Sibusiso Sithole told The Mercury recently that the municipality had spent more than R100 million over the past six years to repair infrastructure that had been sabotaged. He said they expected acts of sabotage to intensify during the festive season.

Ugu district mayor Sizwe Ngcobo acknowledged that there were areas that were without water, even though he believed that the problem has been exaggerated.

Several businesses in the coastal towns of Hibberdene, Margate and Ramsgate, speaking on condition of anonymity, shared their frustration regarding the water situation.

A guest house owner in the Hibberdene area said that when guests called to book, the first thing they wanted to know was the availability of water. He said they had lost business because some people no longer booked accommodation due to the water issue.

“We have had to make our own plans and water supplies because we just cannot rely on the water supply from the municipality. When guests call, we try to assure them that they will have uninterrupted water supply as the lodge has its own supply.”

She said that on days when there was no water, the lodge bought water from water tankers at a cost of R2 000 per tanker.

“At times we even have to pump the swimming pool water to the rooms for the guests to bathe, but that brings another cost because when we have to refill the swimming pool, the municipal water is often dirty and we have to spend about R1 000 purifying that water,” she said.

Another guest house owner in the Margate area said that while he was not affected at the moment, he had been forced to install his own water system to ensure the business continued to operate even when the municipality was unable to supply water.

“I am in a lower-lying area. We normally get affected three days after the problem has started, and it is a serious problem, especially at this time of the year. When tourists are looking to book, they ask about these issues,” he said.

Viyaj Naidoo, the chief executive of the Port Shepstone Business Association that represents manufacturing and retail companies, said many companies were contemplating relocating to places where the water situation was more stable.

“This is not scaremongering, we have had a situation where businesses have closed down. Others are looking to move, which will result in job losses.

“There are other businesses that have 200 or more employees, one that makes edible oil and household products where if there is no water the staff cannot work, and the company is losing a lot in terms of production time,” he said.

Phelisa Mangcu from South Coast Tourism said the water situation always got worse during the festive season when tourists were expected to visit the towns.

“We cannot run away from the fact that this damages our image and reputation, that is a fact. Anything that touches on water, cleanliness and crime has a serious impact on tourism and our ability to grow the industry,” said Mangcu.

She said despite the water problems, just a week ago, reports that showed that bookings were around 80%, which could be attributed to lockdown fatigue.

“We believe that this was largely because people just wanted to be out of their usual environment,” she said.

She added that when the area was coming out of the different levels of lockdown, there were businesses that informed them that they were struggling, with “some closing down and others changing their operating hours”.

DA MPL Rishigen Viranna described the situation as a humanitarian crisis as it placed residents at risk of being infected with Covid -19 because of a failure to practise proper hygiene.

“There has also been no provision made by the municipality for alternative water provision, like JoJo tanks. The leadership of the Ugu District Municipality is placing the residents of the South Coast under increased risk of Covid-19,” he said.

“Recently, KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala and other MECs visited places around KwaZulu-Natal to ensure the enforcement of Covid-19 regulations and issue violation notices to errant businesses. We call on Premier Zikalala to issue the leadership of the Ugu District Municipality with a Covid-19 violation notice and hold them accountable,” he said.

The Mercury

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