Durban environmental activist and chairperson of the South Durban Community Environmental Alliance, Desmond D’Sa said he is waiting with bated breath to see if Umngeni-uThukela Water can bring change to the dire water and sanitation situation in Durban.
The fact that eThekwini had to give up control over such a large asset in terms of its revenue generation is a clear indication of the level of incompetence that runs the municipality, D’Sa explained.
In December, Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu announced that the water authority will oversee 90% of eThekwini’s sewage processing capabilities, as well as repairing damages and doing maintenance.
This includes the Northern Wastewater Treatment Works, the Southern, Central Treatment Works, uMhlanga, KwaMashu, Phoenix, Amanzimtoti, uMbilo, Isipingo, and uMhlatuzana Treatment Works.
The southern and central works discharge effluent directly into the sea via offshore pipes.
Since the floods in April 2022 uprooted an already ailing water system, the eThekwini Municipality administration has failed to address major issues surrounding wastewater treatment plants.
As a result, raw effluent has been flowing into rivers and finding its way to the beaches, despite the City continuously telling people beaches are “safe for use”.
“We are worried that our city fathers have ruined Durban. We have extremely high levels of pollution in rivers and in our water. We have witnessed the breakdown of infrastructure due to a lack of maintenance, but critically, the environment suffers at the hands of the city.
“We have repeatedly called on the national government to intervene. We have asked them to find people suitable to do the job.
“The reason our water infrastructure is collapsing and is in such a pathetic state is because there is a lack of competent people to do the work,” D’sa said on Tuesday.
According to the municipality and uMngeni-uThukela Water, the contract period will span 12 months and has been in effect since November 15, 2023.
“The agreement has been effective from November 15, 2023, and will see the Water Board involved in the operation of 10 wastewater treatment works that handle over 90% of the total wastewater generated by the eThekwini Metro,” eThekwini and uMngeni said in a joint statement.
As part of the contract, repairs at the wastewater treatment facilities in uMhlanga, Phoenix, the Northern Works, uMhlatuzana, KwaMashu, Isipingo, uMbilo, and Amanzimtoti, as well as the central and southern works, will take place.
On Monday, Minister Mchunu blamed the eThekwini Municipality for its water woes.
It was not too long ago that the minister was sitting next to mayor Mxolisi Kaunda on a stage in uMlazi, pretending to be best pals during a water imbizo, but the minister quickly changed his tune on live TV.
Mchunu was speaking during a live broadcast on Newzroom Afrika when he openly said that poor governance was a cause for concern in addressing service delivery issues.
He said the uMngeni-uThukela Water takeover was one of the ways the national government was intervening in the situation.
The eThekwini Municipality, in typical fashion, responded by saying it does speak to the media about such issues, despite the national minister calling them out on their inability to perform.
“eThekwini Municipality will not engage with any sphere of government through the media,” spokesperson Gugu Sisilana municiplained on Monday.