Restore water, or else, residents warn

Pastor Mervin Reddy, water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu, Ricky Naidoo and Vasi Govender. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Pastor Mervin Reddy, water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu, Ricky Naidoo and Vasi Govender. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo

Published Feb 12, 2024


Durban — Thursday is D-Day for the eThekwini Municipality to fulfil its promises of having a permanent supply of water for residents in the northern areas.

Minister of Water and Sanitation (DWS) Senzo Mchunu told a meeting in Phoenix on Sunday that by Thursday repairs to valves and infrastructure should be completed and reservoirs in Phoenix, Verulam and oThongathi would be filling up and the distribution of water to homes will be back to normal.

Mchunu met residents and representatives of the Verulam Water Crisis Committee (VWCC), Voice of Phoenix (VOP), Phoenix Civic Movement, Belvedere Civic Association, Tongaat Civic Association and the Phoenix Working Committee.

These organisations have formed a group to bring hope, get accountability and progress and to hold the government accountable for its failure to uphold human rights.

In a joint statement the group stated that in the face of an escalating humanitarian crisis, the people of these communities stand together as one united front.

The group believes it is time to set aside their differences and come together to collectively tackle the dire water supply situation that has plagued the community for far too long.

“It is with great disappointment that we witness the consistent neglect of our water supply by the eThekwini Municipality water and sanitation services management and their leadership, as well as the apparent lack of action by the so-called Mayor of eThekwini (Mxolisi Kaunda).

“We will no longer tolerate their inaction; we hereby declare our resolve to demand answers and accountability from these individuals and their offices.”

Recognising the urgency of the situation, the concerned groups expect Mchunu and the eThekwini Municipality to take immediate action to restore the fundamental human right to access clean, reliable water for every resident of eThekwini. The group also intends to address the glaring issue of communication failures within the municipality.

“We implore the relevant authorities to rectify this deficiency promptly and to ensure that accurate, timely information regarding progress, challenges, and mitigation efforts is readily available to affected communities. Clear and transparent communication is vital in fostering trust and unity,” the statement read.

“In this time of crisis and uncertainty, we must stand together, recognising that every resident within eThekwini is affected by this dire water shortage. As neighbours, as communities, we must extend a helping hand to one another, assisting those in need … Together, let us forge a bond strong enough to weather any hardship and emerge as a resilient and compassionate eThekwini.”

Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu. Picture: Doctor Ngcobo/ Independent Newspapers

The water crisis is also affecting residents in Newlands, Effingham, Greenwood Park, Durban North, La Lucia and Umhlanga.

A resident and VOP member Vasi Govender said South Africans have learnt to cope without electricity but they cannot do anything without water. Govender told Mchunu that people were waiting to take legal action if the problem still persisted by Friday.

The VOP and Mchunu handed VenkPac CEO Ricky Naidoo a certificate of appreciation for supplying water to fill up JoJo tanks at schools in Phoenix.

PWC member Sham Maharaj called for the eThekwini executive committee to be replaced. Maharaj also questioned why water tankers recently procured by the municipality were not providing water to residents regularly.

The PCM’s Alice Govender said last week alone, many schools in Phoenix closed their doors early because there was a water crisis. In one school in particular, students protested and forcefully walked out of school because the school decided to continue despite the crisis.

“Only 50 schools in the North and two health centres in the North are receiving water through tankers. We discovered that there were no Indian schools on that list. Our concern is not the number of water tankers in the municipality’s portfolio, but instead the functionality and efficiency of these tankers. On paper, we have many tankers, but practically speaking only few are in operation,” Govender said.

Residents were frustrated and angry that they were being billed for water they are not receiving. They pleaded with Mchunu to intervene.

Mchunu said Mahatma Gandhi Hospital in Phoenix only had four hours of water supply on Sunday. Mchunu said eThekwini’s water demand is higher than supply and non-revenue water losses must be dealt with.

However, Mchunu said he did not have the power to deal with the issue unless the municipality and provincial government asked for it through governance laws. He called for the regular monitoring of the water pipe system and for councillors to lead officials.

“I don’t want to fail in my duties. I don’t have access to officials. I rely on the mayor and councillors,” Mchunu said.

Last Wednesday, eThekwini Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda inspected the Northern Aqueduct Pipeline project and was confident the municipality would meet Thursday’s deadline.

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