A water tank filling a Jojo tanker in Verulam.
A water tank filling a Jojo tanker in Verulam.

Billions needed to fix failing water infrastructure on KZN North Coast

By Janine Moodley Time of article published Mar 26, 2021

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Durban - A few weeks ago, it was Chatsworth. Now residents in some parts of Verulam have been without water for 14 days. If the Democratic Alliance is to be believed, it is an eventuality for everyone living in KwaZulu-Natal.

According to the DA, the infrastructure in the province is collapsing and KZN needs about R11 billion just to address the backlogs. The province needs a further R100 billion to modernise the water system.

The figure emerged after Chris Pappas, a DA MP, formally requested a figure from Sipho Hlomuka, the KZN MEC for Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs (Cogta).

In the response, Hlomuka recognised the “dire state of service infrastructure”. He said the KZN leadership assessed the state of water, electricity and sanitation in the ten districts of the province. eThekwini, the only metro in the province, was excluded.

Hlomuka said the plan was to get money from the National Treasury to address the backlogs and the modernisation of the water system. Furthermore, plans were in place to try and get those using the services to pay for them.

Hlomuka said the issue of water loss had been raised on several platforms and the immediate relief available for those experiencing water issues was delivery of water by tankers.

Through a water intervention plan, Hlomuka said Cogta purchased 3 000 static tanks and hired 22 tankers.

"Cogta still has a small fleet of its own which are assisting in priority areas."

But Pappas said he was deeply concerned by the figures.

“At this rate and with the current policies in place, the DA is very worried that there will soon be a total infrastructure collapse in many municipalities across KZN.

“The question is: where will the ANC find the money to prevent this when it insists on pursuing destructive economic and governance policies? Not to mention the R1.5billion already lost on its watch as a result of looting and theft over the years.

“The harsh reality is that with budget cuts and a shrinking tax base, along with the government's insistence on hanging on to failed policies, the funds needed are unlikely to materialise any time soon. This while almost all KZN municipalities are struggling to keep the lights on, water flowing out of taps and sewage out of the streets.

“The biggest contributors to the failure of basic infrastructure in our province are a lack of capacity due to cadre deployment, financial mismanagement, and under-expenditure on maintenance. The result is a decline in municipalities which directly contributes to lack of investment, economic growth and access to opportunities. This in turn increases poverty, inequality and unemployment.”

Meanwhile, eThekwini intends borrowing R1.5 billion from financial institutions for capital projects.

Sipho Cele, the acting city manager said they are in the process of securing the loan but were giving the public and relevant stakeholders to make submissions.

He said the City was confident in its ability to pay back the loan.

The public has until April 9 to comment.

Nicole Graham, DA eThekwini Caucus leader, criticised the council for prioritising R54 million for staff bonuses. “Now there is nothing left for a crisis”.

She said there was a shortage of water tankers and there was now no money to get more.

"Water tankers are few and far between and the harsh reality is that eThekwini Water and Sanitation does not have enough cash to hire more."

She said the tanker roll-out was a complete failure.

"There are seldom maps or plans, tankers get “hi-jacked” and re-routed in the absence of proper security."

The City’s executive committee, in a statement, said every effort to provide uninterrupted water supply in the city continues.

The committee said a decision to isolate Inanda Dam reservoir from load shedding is expected to help ensure constant water supply in the affected water reservoirs.

“To gain more understanding on the challenges besetting these water reservoirs, the City leadership, accompanied by the top management of Umgeni Water, conducted an inspection of these facilities.”

The City’s committee said the main objective was to ascertain that the practical measures being implemented to end water shortages does not affect other technical challenges.

“The leadership also received a progress report on the upgrade of water infrastructure in Verulam. A new pipe will be added into the existing network to increase water supply in the area next week.”

The City said apart from load shedding adversely affecting the main water reservoirs such as Durban Heights, Wiggins and Ntuzuma, the population in the city has increased by 25 % in the last five years, which puts a further strain on our existing infrastructure.

“As a practical measure to ensure that all residents have access to clean drinking water, the City will be investing in boreholes and static tanks in 137 areas that receive water through water tankers.”

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