Pretoria - Utility Services MMC Abel Tau has warned that the Hammanskraal water quality dispute may lead to residents being caught up in a political storm.
His warning came in the wake of fresh concerns over water quality by the South African Human Rights Commission’s provincial manager, Buang Jones, this week.
Jones reportedly said the water in the area was unfit for human consumption, basing his comment on the report compiled by the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research following a laboratory test.
It was reported that sampling was conducted on June 20 at the Temba Water Treatment Works, Kekana Primary School, Refentse Clinic and Hammanskraal Secondary School.
But Tau lashed out at Jones for speaking out about the report’s findings before he could meet with the City.
“We were supposed to discuss the findings before they go public with them. Jones said the meeting happened, but we didn’t meet with them to discuss the results. Personally, I don’t know the results. I have not seen the results,” he said.
He described the commission’s behaviour as “astonishing”.
“We can’t have a situation where we allow residents to be caught up in a political storm of some sort.”
He said it was very dangerous to take the first sample and conclude that the water was unfit for human consumption.
Both the commission and the City have a meeting scheduled for Monday to talk about the report.
“There is a lot of conversation that we need to have,” Tau said.
He said that despite the Hammanskraal water system being declared a disaster in 2011, the matter was not addressed until the DA-led administration came into power in 2016. He said the City had previously conducted tests of the water that showed it was healthy.
“At the time the commission said it would not release the results. I don’t want to cast an aspersion on the Chapter 9 institution, but why does it have this energy to speak about the results that are negative against us?” Tau said.
Water and Sanitation spokesperson Sputnik Ratau said the report confirmed the department’s position that water in Hammanskraal was not drinkable.
He said the department had opted for a lab test “so that no one will say my test is different from yours”.
“The results confirm what we have always known,” he said.
Ratau said that the department would be guided by legislation, but he didn’t want “to pre-empt the next step”.
Premier David Makhura weighed in, saying he was glad the verdict had not come from him. He said he had previously been accused of persuading residents to believe that the water was dirty.
“I don’t like to blame my colleague, the mayor. But he just needs to know that the water is dirty and that the water problem must be sorted out. It is the City of Pretoria’s problem, it must be sorted,” he said.
He said the mayor mustn’t blame others when people raised the water problem.
“I know that the national department is working with the team in Pretoria. I brought them here last year when we were with the former mayor of Tshwane (Solly Msimanga),” he said.
He said the City must do its job and that his administration was willing to support it.
“There are many people who got admitted to Jubilee Hospital because of the water problem. So there is no politics about it; it is just about service delivery,” he said.