DURBAN - THE SA Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) is looking at a provincial investigation into areas affected by last month’s disaster as communities continue to struggle without water and electricity almost a month after flooding left more than 400 dead and thousands without homes in KwaZulu-Natal.
On Friday, the SAHRC issued a statement saying that it had noted that the residents of oThongathi and surrounding areas had been without water for about 28 days due to extensive infrastructure damage caused to the water treatment plant.
The organisation said its KZN provincial office had registered an own initiative complaint to investigate the current situation and assess what interim measures had been implemented.
“Section 13 of the SAHRC Act empowers the commission to investigate any alleged violation of human rights and to secure appropriate redress where necessary,” the statement read.
The SAHRC’s provincial manager Lloyd Lotz said the eThekwini Municipality had been given until yesterday to submit a report on how it would ensure that immediate and appropriate intervention and assistance was provided to the oThongathi community, businesses, schools and other organisations.
He added that the commission was aware of the water and electricity challenges in other areas as well as those in various other districts in the province and was currently considering the options possible at a provincial level.
KZN Premier Sihle Zikalala last week said other areas including Nagina, Klaarwater, Ntshongweni, Ntshangwe and Zwelibomvu were still without water and electricity since the floods.
Opposition parties commended the SAHRC for initiating the investigation.
Vusi Khoza, EFF KZN leader, said oThongathi, other parts of eThekwini, areas in Pietermaritzburg and Ndwedwe had residents who were desperate for water and access to sanitation. “Inanda has had no water for days.” IFP president Velinkosini Hlabisa said in many areas, sub-stations and water infrastructure had been washed away.
“The SAHRC must look at a wider scope of water challenges resulting from the floods. Fixing water infrastructure will take longer unless more resources are made available. A wider investigation can help to reveal the real extent of damage and need for intervention.”
Nicole Graham, leader of the DA in eThekwini, said it was crucial for the commission and the national portfolio committee of water and sanitation to look at eThekwini’s situation.
“The Tongaat situation is severe but it is not the only place facing problems … what is unique there is that it had water problems for a long time.”
Graham said it was impossible for thousands of people to rely on auxiliary supply, including tankers and boreholes.
In an interview with The Mercury on Sunday, deputy mayor Philani Mavundla detailed the challenges, saying the damage to the waterworks infrastructure in the oThongathi area alone, could take up to five months to address and to restore the tap water supply.
“In the oThongathi area, we are supplying water to the community via tankers, we have made means for people in areas like uMlazi township to get water, the whole of Durban is faced with a serious water challenge,” he said.
He said Umgeni Water’s infrastructure was also damaged, exacerbating water shortages. Mavundla said it was impossible to estimate the cost of the damage to water infrastructure at the moment.