The DA has asked for immediate parliamentary intervention into the ongoing Grahamstown water fiasco. It is of utmost urgency that the quick-wins suggested by the DA during the debate on this issue in the Eastern Cape Provincial Legislature on 12 September be implemented forthwith.

I have today spoken to my colleague for Local Government in Parliament, John Steenhuizen MP, and appraised him of the latest situation in order for him to liaise directly with the presidency for swifter action. What is of concern is the lethargy, talk-shop with very little action that has surrounded this issue.

The intervention from the DA’s side will take place within the next two weeks in consultation with the affected communities, Makana Municipality and Amathola Water Board.

The DA believes that Grahamstown’s water supply can be improved with five quick-win steps:

  1. A large reservoir to be built on the hill above Grahamstown (above the N2 next to the Waainek Water Treatment Works) to allow for gravity feed to all parts of Grahamstown. Currently the Settler’s Monument, Prison, Army Base, Rhodes Post-grad village and upwards of ten Rhodes residences are above the existing reservoir’s base, which means they don’t get water until the level of the reservoir rises above their height.
  2. Re-connect the existing water supply from Jameson Dam and Milner Dam (known collectively as Slaaikraal) to the Waainek Water Treatment Works. This would permit a third source of water (in addition to the Glen Melville/Fish River supply and the Howieson’s Poort supply). This pipeline must be repaired as a matter of urgency (400m of pipe reported stolen recently) and enable the water to be treated in emergencies. This would have a combined capacity of 649.6 Megalitres.
  3. Provide a shortened power line to the Howieson’s Poort pumps via the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve Eskom line (approximately 1km away), instead of the 15km of power line the current supply uses. The latter is susceptible to outages regularly, particularly in strong winds and is also an aging line subject to regular breakdown.
  4. Upgrade the pumps and motors at Howieson’s Poort pumping station. The two on hand are now over 60 years old.
  5. Introduce rainwater harvesting bylaws for all new construction.

The hot weather and lack of water due to failing infrastructure in Grahamstown and elsewhere in the province has left the door open for a health disaster. It will be the most vulnerable, especially people in informal settlements who will suffer from stomach ailments and typhoid because they do not enjoy the basic entitlement of proper sanitation.

The government is deluding itself by harping on that everybody enjoys freedom under our Constitution. Water is a constitutional right, and the ruling party is not providing all the citizens of our province with this right.