The Next EC Humanitarian Crisis – Safe and Reliable Water Supply

The Next EC Humanitarian Crisis – Safe and Reliable Water Supply

It has become evident that a humanitarian crisis is unfolding in the Eastern Cape. Our water infrastructure is collapsing, taps have run dry, and tens of thousands of desperate residents across the province are being displaced as there is no longer potable water available to them.

Those who choose to stay can wait days, even weeks, for municipalities to cart water to their area by tanker or must rely on local water sources, which are often contaminated, as the sewage infrastructure has also collapsed.

These are just some of the stark realities that have come to light during the Democratic Alliance (DA) Eastern Cape’s Small Town Tour, which involves visiting 28 towns over six weeks.

The most appalling aspect of this crisis, though, is that the private sector wants to help, but the ANC-led local government refuses to acknowledge the problem. ANC politicians and cadre-deployed officials have chosen rather to let our people suffer than accept assistance and take responsibility for the crisis.

These are just some of the water-related issues faced by Eastern Cape communities:

  • The Town of Pearston in the Blue Crane Route Municipality has been without water for months. The private sector and community members offered to repair the problem, but the municipality rejected the offer.
  • Ndlovini and New Brighton, in Bedford, in the Raymond Mhlaba Municipality, have been without water for years.
  • Coldstream, in the Koukamma Municipality, has been without water since the beginning of the year due to reservoir leaks and reticulation problems.
  • Joubertina, in Koukamma Municipality, has regular water shedding as only one out of three pumps is in working condition. The pump house is also flooded regularly due to faulty plumbing. The Joubertina supply dam is currently at 12% capacity. Again, the irrigation board offered to assist in managing the water infrastructure, while the private sector offered to repair the infrastructure, but the offer was rejected by the municipality.
  • Woodlands, in the Koukamma Municipality, is also experiencing water shedding due to a lightning strike three years ago which damaged the electrical infrastructure at the pump station. The private sector offered to repair this at no cost, but the offer was rejected by the municipality.
  • Towns of Cradock and Middelburg, in the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality, have massive infrastructure challenges and the towns are often without water for more than a week at a time.
  • The Enoch Mgijima Local Municipality has several areas that are affected by continuous water outages, including Elukolweni.

Access to Water is a basic human right in South Africa. It is alarming that municipalities lack the resources to address the challenges of bulk infrastructure failure regarding water provision.

I will be writing to the COGTA MEC, Zolile Williams, to intervene and to encourage these municipalities to accept help from the private sector in terms of public-private partnerships.

The fact that assistance from the private sector, at no cost, is being turned down by municipalities not only illustrates a lack of political will but also shows that there is a total disregard for the people affected by this disaster.

The question must be asked: if they can assist thousands of people through the assistance of the private sector, why say no and allow the continued suffering of our communities?

The DA will continue to fight for the people of the Eastern Cape to have access to clean, potable water and to rescue them from the incompetence and maladministration that has resulted in this crisis.