Politicians play football over water crisis

Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane speaks to Tafelsig residents at a public meeting on Saturday.

While the DA-led City of Cape Town and the ANC-led national government are playing political football with the water crisis, there are residents in massive arrears with their water bills and some even without water.

In a letter to the acting City manager Lungelo Mbandazayo, signed February 1, Rashid Khan, the regional head of the national Department of Water and Sanitation, warns the City of a notice of intention to issue a directive to suspend or withdraw an entitlement to use water after contravening the National Water Act.

In the notice, of which the Plainsman has a copy, Mr Khan said the City has not adhered to the restricted target of 45% for water taken from the Western Cape Supply System (WCSS) for urban use. He said weekly monitoring since November last year for all users from the WCSS showed the City not adhering to the target.

“Due to the urgency of the situation, interventions will be required to be implemented as a matter of priority,” read the notice.

Failure to comply with this directive constitutes an offence of National Water Act (NWA) and a criminal case may be opened against Mr Mbandazayo at his nearest police station.

“Please be informed that the instructions in this notice are given in the interest of responsible water resource management, and with the view to a co-operative resolution of the issue,” read the final remarks.

Priya Reddy, communications director for the City of Cape Town, confirmed receipt of the notice, adding that a response has been sent to national government.

“To date we have managed to reduce consumption from more than 1.1 billion litres per day to the current consumption level of
547 million litres per day. We still need to do more to reach the 45% urban usage reduction target that has been set by the national Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) since we have not reached this target yet. Therefore, Level 6b restrictions make it compulsory for residents to use no more than 50 litres per person per day to get collective consumption down to 450 million litres per day to help us stretch our dwindling supplies through summer.”

Meanwhile, on Saturday February 10, Minister of Water and Sanitation, Nomvula Mokonyane, wearing an ANC golf-shirt and cap, spoke to Tafelsig residents about the City of Cape Town’s “mismanagement” of water.

Sulyman Stellenboom, chairman of Tafelsig Activists Forum (TAF), invited the minister to hear residents’ concerns at the meeting, held on the field next to the New Apostolic Church in Kilimanjaro Street

Ms Mokonyane said: “Water is life. Everyone has the right to have access to water. Water for the rich and the poor. Water is for all South Africans.”

She said drought was an international phenomena due to global warming and that the Western Cape did not get its winter rains but that everyone had to work together to avoid Day Zero – set as Monday June 4.

In the next breath she said there is no such thing as Day Zero. “It is a scare tactic from the City,” she said.

She said the country had been warned about a drought 17 years ago and that many of the other provinces had heeded the call to reduce water usage but not the City.

Ms Mokonyane called on the City to go door-to-door to find out who the residents are they are supplying water to.

“Go inside and check how many people are living in the yard; there are many of us who do not work; are elderly and sick; and cannot survive on the allocated water quota,” she said.

Ms Mokonyane said there should be a war on leaks programme; residents should be educated about reducing their use of and reusing water.

She said residents have the right to refuse the installation of the water management devices; that they should not receive notices threatening to put them out of their homes because their municipal bills were in arrears.

However, Ms Reddy said the installation of water management devices across the metro is being implemented to restrict high consumption households across Cape Town.

In July 2017, as part of Level 4B water restrictions, the City issued a directive in terms of the Water By-law which empowers the City to install water management devices on premises where the water usage is unjustifiably excessive with respect to the restriction level.

“The roll-out of this programme is one of the City’s drought interventions.

“Water management devices are being installed at households where high consumption cannot be justified or has not been rectified despite warnings. The City continually also reminds households that it is the property owner’s duty to detect and repair water leaks.”

A Tafelsig resident, Eugene Crozier, who had a water bill of R269 563.42, went to the City of Cape Town to have it scrapped but was then forced to have the water management device installed only to have his pipes leak weeks later.

Pensioner Gadija de Jong, 60, has had her municipal arrears scrapped and a water management device installed but still does not have water every day.

She told the minister that she was not home when the device was installed and only has water every other day.

“I don’t understand why I don’t have water every day,” she said.

Ms Reddy said in general, the City receives over 700 calls relating to water per day, of which some are only enquiries and not reports of leaks or bursts.

She said there are various reasons for high bills therefore the City cannot speculate. “We would need to have the details of these cases in order to investigate.”

Mr Stellenboom who before introducing the minister said that the meeting was not “a catwalk” and the community must hold the minister accountable, took the minister to about three different households, including Mr Crozier.

After meeting the minister the Plainsman asked Mr Crozier what his thoughts were. He replied:“It’s just electioneering.”