Minister to ‘manage’ water problems in Eastern Cape

By Anita Dangazele

Nelson Mandela Bay is the only municipality in the Eastern Cape in which all residential areas have adequate access to clean water, according to Water and Sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu.

During a three-day visit, Mchunu went to different regions of the province to assess the state of water and sanitation and the progress of projects implemented by the department.

The Eastern Cape is still one of the few provinces where residents are forced to compete with livestock for water because of a lack of infrastructure, especially in the OR Tambo and Amathole regions.

Mchunu noted that many municipalities had the necessary infrastructure, but were unable to provide water to residents.

“The taps are there, they have been built but for some technical reason, no water is coming out. We asked these municipalities what the challenges are so that we can intervene. You find that others are just sitting on top of the problem and not reporting these issues to us,” Mchunu said.

He said the department is going to work closely with municipalities to ensure that all planned projects are implemented and to bridge the gap in water and sanitation services.

“We’re not going to replace them, we’re going to get much more managerial to ensure that things happen and that they happen the way we want them to,” he said.

Speaking about the drought situation in Nelson Mandela Bay, Mchunu said he was happy with progress made by the municipality but the department would not declare the region drought-free yet.

“We are satisfied, but with caution. We said we’re happy, but with caution.”

In June 2022, Nelson Mandela Bay was a few days shy of having no water when the department intervened. The dams supplying the city stood at 12%. Overall dam levels now stand at 72%.

“We are okay now,” said Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Gary van Niekerk, adding that the municipality is now focused on preventing a future crisis.

“It’s important for us to plan for the next 10 to 20 years [and] the thing that we’ve asked the minister to assist us with is our desalination plant,” he said.

Van Niekerk said another issue that needed the ministry’s intervention was the bucket toilet system, as a significant number of residents still use them.

Regarding the water crisis in the Makana local municipality, Mchunu said: “Makana in particular is resisting to adapt to what we want to do as the municipality. We go in and out but we don’t see the results of whatever we agree on and now they are getting an increase in buckets and we are worried about that.”

Makana has faced a water crisis since 2021, with water outages every other week.

Mchunu said the Makana water crisis was a “stubborn” issue, because every time intervention teams leave the municipality, it goes back to crisis mode.

Pictured above: Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu with the mayor of Nelson Mandela Bay, Gary van Niekerk.

Image source: Anita Dangazele

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