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ANC wants answers as to whether KZN Premier abused his position following water tanker debacle

Ayesha Mastan Sheik Hoosen sought refugee at the Vishwaroop Temple Hall, in Tongaat, after her home was flooded. Residents in Tongaat have not had water since last week. Picture Sibonelo Ngcobo.

Ayesha Mastan Sheik Hoosen sought refugee at the Vishwaroop Temple Hall, in Tongaat, after her home was flooded. Residents in Tongaat have not had water since last week. Picture Sibonelo Ngcobo.

Published Apr 22, 2022

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Durban: The African National Congress wants Premier Sihle Zikalala to explain whether or not he abused his position by getting an eThekwini water tanker to deliver water exclusively to his home in La Mercy.

The matter will be raised when the ANC’s provincial executive committee meets this week.

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Nhlapanipho Ntombela, the ANC provincial spokesperson in KZN, said: "We will obtain clarity as to exactly what happened. At this stage, we cannot speculate.”

Like many areas in KZN, La Mercy residents had been without water for days following the floods that devastated the province.

When eThekwini failed to send a water tanker to the area, the local mosque, which has a borehole allowed residents to collect water. The mosque is situated a few meters away from Zikalala’s home.

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Last Friday residents noticed a tanker outside Zikalala’s house.

Riyash Owen Pather who lives in the area, posted a video of the water tanker on TikTok, Instagram and Facebook.

In the video, Pather said: "Sihle Zikalala has a private tanker offloading water at his premises. La Mercy cannot get a tanker to deliver for the residents. There is Sihle with his own tanker delivering to his house. How does this work?"

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The video went viral and Zikalala was criticised.

On Monday, Zikalala described the allegations that he had received preferential treatment as “baseless and contemptuous”. He claimed the footage had been digitally manipulated.

Zikalala said he, like other residents, had been without water for days. He asked for assistance on behalf of all residents in the area. He added that when the tanker arrived it first provided water to other residents. It then supplied water to his home.

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POST was not able to establish whether water was filled in buckets or storage tanks at the premier's house.

“Now, for this person to present the video in a way that implies that only my family got the water is blatant propaganda, uncalled-for, mischievous and malicious,” said the premier.

He added that he and his family had also provided food for those who had lost their homes, and were being sheltered at the local community hall.

The premier’s version prompted a response from Ravi Ramsundar, chairperson of the La Mercy Ratepayers Association.

According to Ramsundar there were several people present when the tanker arrived at the premier’s house which is located near a a community hall, mosque and temple, all of which were helping people in need.

"When queried, the driver had advised that the water tanker was destined for Tongaat but that it was rerouted to the premier’s home. This took place whilst there were people lining up at the mosque for water.

Ramsundar said the association's vice-chairperson, Tashya Giyapersad, contacted Zikalala who denied the water was for his exclusive use.

"This is factually incorrect as residents and several informal dwellers proceeded to the truck for water but were advised that the water was for Zikalala only."

" A true leader eats last,” said Ramsundar.

He said that two nights later, the premier’s wife and a team from the Department of Social Development arrived at the hall with a catering company to feed people there.

He said they were accompanied by a media team who took photographs of them handing food across to victims of the flood.

"They left as quickly as they arrived. We find this kind of conduct a disgrace and nothing short of being tone-deaf to a community and a province that is desperate for assistance."

"This issue is more than just about corruption. This issue is about the fight for survival in the fight for access to resources to which every person is entitled as a basic human right.

"Corrupt politicians have emptied our coffers and plundered our country, now our resources and right to access those resources are under threat."

Ramsundar said the association planned to lay a complaint with the Public Protector.

Other residents confirmed Ramsundar’s version.

A resident who asked not to be named said: "I was walking from my home to the mosque when I saw the tanker stop at his home. The area was busy. But none of the residents were called to the tanker to take water. We later found out that the water was only meant for his home.

"I feel disappointed and let down because he is a leader and residents should come first. If he brought the water for residents, why is it that nobody in the community can say they received water from the tanker?"

Another resident said: "We have been suffering since the storm. Some of us are old and we have to carry buckets of water. It is not fair that he gets preferential treatment because he is a politician."

Political parties also want the matter probed.

Francios Rodger, the leader of the DA in KZN, said he had asked his councillors in the province to investigate the allegations.

"We are not surprised by the actions of the premier as it typifies the arrogance of the ANC."

Mdu Nkosi, the IFP eThekwini Metro chairperson, said: "This shows that the ANC does not care about the people on the ground. It is a shame and an embarrassment because we expect leaders to extend a hand.

"I will be calling for an investigation into who from the Department of Water and Sanitation in the municipality authorised the delivery to his home. This is unethical behaviour."

Zikalala met with members of the association on Thursday and released a joint statement. According to the statement, the association agreed in the past the premier had assisted where he could in terms of water shortages in the area; and that both parties have agreed to move forward in the spirit of unity and in the greater interest of the community.

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