Picture: Supplied
Picture: Supplied

’The sewage is flowing but all they do is talk politics’: Emfuleni residents irked by Mabuza's visit

By Manyane Manyane, Karabo Ngoepe Time of article published Mar 28, 2021

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Emfuleni Local Municipality residents say they are fed up with empty promises from politicians who only think of them ahead of elections.

They voiced their anger following Deputy President David Mabuza's visit to the area to inspect the water treatment plant. The residents described Mabuza's visit as a political strategy to convince them to vote for the ANC in the local elections.

Mabuza visited Emfuleni on Tuesday to assess the Sebokeng WasteWater Treatment Facility's progress, which is aimed at preventing sewage spillage into the Vaal River. He was joined by Human Settlements Minister Lindiwe Sisulu and Gauteng Premier David Makhura and some of the provincial MECs.

Dibuseng Mabitsela, a resident, said the incomplete wastewater plant had wreaked havoc in their homes.

"My house is sometimes flooded with sewage from the toilet, and this has been happening for long now. The municipality and the whole government are aware, and instead of fixing the situation, they come here for votes," she said.

Andisiwe Ndzuzo said: "Why is he only coming after two years since he promised to meet with us within two weeks during his visit in 2019? This clearly shows that we should not trust these people. They are not honest. I think they are happy with Vaal looking like this. Just look around, there's rubbish and sewage all over, and these people are just coming here to make promises that they can't fulfil. I think we are just being played. They know elections are just around the corner."

In October 2018, President Cyril Ramaphosa declared the sewage spillage in the area a national crisis and deployed members of the SANDF to assist Emfuleni to fix it. The defence force was also expected to train 200 youth and community members to guard 44 pump stations until the completion of the project.

In 2019, former Minister of Human Settlement, Water and Sanitation Gugile Nkwiti said his department had allocated R341 million for the Sebokeng Wastewater Treatment and that 250 youth would be trained in plumbing, carpentry, bricklaying, paving and agriculture.

The residents, who were promised training and job opportunities at the WasterWater Treatment, said they are still waiting until today.

Over the years, these unemployed residents staged numerous protests aimed at forcing the government to fulfil its promises.

During Mabuza's visit in 2019, residents approached him and appealed for intervention, further asking for job creation. Mabuza made an undertaking to address their grievances within a week, something they say has still not happened.

Ndade Phaladi said when they asked Mabuza about his promises, he made further promises that he would return to the area to attend to their grievances.

"We still remember in 2019 he said he would come after two weeks and he did not. At that time, they even promised that about 300 people would be employed. On Tuesday, he said he would come on Monday. I think these guys were just here to seek our votes, nothing else. All they do is to lie at us," said Phaladi.

Another resident, Patrick Monamoli, said Mabuza's visit was a waste of time.

"I want him to sign papers with us so I can believe him. These people are just coming for politics. All they do is talk politics. Look at the streets, the sewage is flowing because of the wastewater treatment but these people don't want to hire us to speed up the process. I think the deputy president was sent to come and pretend as if he was sorry about the delay of the project just for us to vote for the ANC."

Aumaki Sebatli said: "I was hoping these people (government) would train us as they promised so I can use the certificate to find a job. But instead, they keep lying to us. They said people would be employed but nothing happened until today."

Mabuza's spokesperson Matshepo Seedat said that Mabuza will visit the area on Monday saying that the deputy president assured the community that the Minister of Water, Sanitation and Human Settlements would be back as part of the department's weekly visits to the area.

"The Minister also committed to meeting with community leaders regarding the next phase of the project. It's a matter of public record that the deputy president apologised to the residents of Emfuleni both in Parliament and to the residents during the visits. He has expressed concerns regarding the governance issues that led to the municipality being placed under administration of the province.

Minister of Human Settlements Lindiwe Sisulu this week said the plant was functioning. She said one turbine was operational but it can accommodate seven.

She added that the challenges faced in the area were due to infrastructure problems.

"We are working on the situation but one of the biggest challenges is the ageing infrastructure there. We have now come up with a plan that is to be tabled before the cabinet for approval," she said.

Governance expert and political analyst Sandile Swana said it was unnecessary for Mabuza to visit the area.

"The ANC, unfortunately, turns to think that sending VIPs to the people and touching their hearts is the way of winning votes. The visit of the deputy president was not necessary. What was needed, and there has been enough time allocated made available to fix the sewage works in Emfuleni. Instead of delivering services, they do public relations.

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