File image: IOL

PIETERMARITZBURG - The municipal manager of the uMgungundlovu District Municipality (KZN Midlands area) said on Tuesday that the municipality would be pursuing businesses and government departments that owed it R500 million for services rendered. 

Dr Ray Ngcobo made the announcement at a media briefing on Tuesday, where he was joined by uMgungundlovu mayor Thobekile Maphumulo. Both made reference to a culture of non-payment for services, at the briefing. 

Ngcobo accused businesses of making profits at the expense of the municipality but singled out the department of education as one of the municipality's main debtors. 

"The education department owes us millions of rands because we provide water to schools. We know that there is a budget for this from the department, but no one bothers to pay us and that is why we will be going after the department to get what is owed to us," said Ngcobo.  

He conceded that it was difficult to ensure water provision for the entire district, citing a growing population that was not matched by the budget. 

In addition to this, the district faced the problem of illegal connections and bursting water pipes that disrupted supply. Ngcobo admitted that the district did not have enough money in its reserves to repair the pipes.     

"We need R5 billion to repair the ageing infrastructure across the municipalities that are supplied by the district because our pipes are still mainly asbestos, which as you know is no longer used. So that is the kind of challenge we face right now," said Ngcobo.

He added that the municipality's recent debt collection campaign, which included disconnecting water supply to non-paying customers, would continue.

The district recently cut the water supply at Camperdown Magistrate's Court and uMngeni Local Municipality because of unpaid water bills. 

The district services water supply at six municipalities, including Richmond, Camperdown and Howick, with a population of over half a million.

African News Agency (ANA)