DA MP Leon Basson conducts an oversight visit with Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral committee member Anette Lovemore. Picture: Raahil Sain/ANA

Port Elizabeth - Phase three of the Nooitgedagt Water Treatment works situated outside Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape -- dubbed as the city's 'saving grace' in the face of an ongoing drought in the province -- has come to a standstill after the Department of Water and Sanitation cut R34 million of an initial R92 million budget for the financial year, the Democratic Alliance (DA) said on Monday. 

At a site visit on Monday, DA member of Parliament (MP) Leon Basson said that the cut would amount to a R23 million shortfall as contractors still needed to be paid for work done. 

Basson said the halt of phase three resulted in penalties of R75 000 per day. 

"We don't want to get into a confrontation with the national department. We would like to sit down and solve the problem so the project can go ahead and not be stalled," said Basson. 

Basson said Water and Sanitation Minister, Nomvula Mokonyane, had no plan and no plans for Cape Town's water crisis either. 

"It does not seem that she is willing to put money on the table," he said. 

Nelson Mandela Bay mayoral Committee Member, Annette Lovemore, said that phase three work stopped last week when a health and safety contractor was not paid. 

"By law you cannot continue with work if a health and safety contractor is not operating and is obviously refusing to do so until he has been paid. So at the moment it has to do with the non payment of a contractor but what Leon is speaking about is the much bigger issue of all contractors stopping," she said.

"There's also no guarantee in 2020. The fact is that our droughts follow a cyclical pattern, so we know in 5 to 6 years time if patterns do not change dramatically as a result of climate change, that we are likely to face another drought and that is primarily when we will really need Nooitgedagt phase three on board," said Lovemore. 

The Nooitgedagt scheme was crucial to prevent the city from running out of bulk water supply and currently treats 140 million litres of water per day, securing a flow to almost half the city's residents. 

The project -- which started over 25 years ago as a National Government water scheme, controlled by the municipality -- treats water from the Gariep Dam.

This water then flows via the Orange-Fish River tunnel and a series of connected rivers to the Sundays River irrigation scheme. From there it is piped, via the treatment works, to areas which include Port Elizabeth. 

The department was not immediately available for comment.

African News Agency/ANA