Since the start of the year, community members living in the uThukela District have experienced low to no water supply. This has been exasperated by the recent floods, ageing infrastructure, and vandalism of important infrastructure.
As the above-mentioned has negatively impacted the lives of the communities in the district, the uThukela District Municipality’s Mayor, Cllr Ntandoyenkosi Shabalala called for a media briefing on Wednesday, 15 March 2023, in Ladysmith.
Opening up to journalists, Cllr Shabalala explained that in the 13 months since the District Municipality’s new leadership took over, it was clear that the entity had inherited a municipality backlogged with issues such as water and sanitation.
This, according to Cllr Shabalala, is characterised by the ageing infrastructure and its lack of capacity to cope with current and future demands.
The Mayor attributed the water shortages in the district to power outages at some of the municipality’s reservoirs, and ageing infrastructure, among other challenges.
Furthermore, he highlighted that the municipal fleet was old, almost over 10 years, and the municipality was also operating under an unfunded budget which made it difficult to effectively provide sustainable services.
But this was just the tip of the iceberg in the challenges faced at the district municipality, he said.
According to Cllr Shabalala, the uThukela District Municipality currently owes over R700 million to its creditors, including over R51 million of litigation and court judgments. Adding to this financial burden, he pointed out that there were municipal employees who were unduly benefitting from overtime and standby allowances.
“We are also a municipality which is overwhelmed by maladministration, fraud, and corruption which have led to council commissioning forensic investigation which amongst other expenditures when the municipality was incurring more than R5 million monthly for fuel, oil, repairs, and maintenance of our fleet.”
With the new administration fully aware of a substantial amount of maladministration and fraudulent activities going on within the municipality, Cllr Shabalala said the leadership has subjected these incidents to a forensic investigation, which is currently underway.
However, Cllr Shabalala noted that the uThukela District Municipality was currently under administration, making it difficult for senior management to apply consequence management against alleged misbehaving employees.
Moreover, he explained, “We were also affected by loadshedding that is ravaging the entire country, as it has a negative impact to supply water sustainably to our communities. It also has a destructing effect on our water infrastructure, such that in every turn when electricity supply is restored, it results in pipe bursts and also damages our pumps in the process.”
The Municipal Manager, Mr Mnguni, added that the uThukela District was grant-dependent, as the Municipality’s revenue collection left a lot to be desired.
Consequently, whatever activity the municipality intended to undertake, was largely dependent on grants. Because of this, Mguni elaborated that the District Municipality was fully aware of cost containment measures that it now had to undertake.
“We are in this serious quandary in relation to budget issues. On the issue of vandalism, we may sound rhetoric, but it is a true reflection of what is happening on the ground,” added Mnguni.
One case of vandalism that impacted both the municipality and community was that which took place at the Winterton Water Treatment Works. According to the Municipal Manager, just after the necessary pumps were installed, they were stolen.
“There are buildings that were vandalised, we have records, we have pictures as proof. Not so long ago, we experienced a similar kind of a pattern of behaviour where our plants were targeted for whatever good reason, I don’t know. But that is one of the issues that are putting us on a back foot,” stressed Mnguni.
On the issue of loadshedding, Mnguni said the District Municipality had sought viable solutions and even engaged with service providers to see if it was feasible to install solar panels at the plants in the quest to circumvent the impact of loadshedding.
But the safety of the solar panels was a concern, with the UThukela District Municipality unable to employ security guards due to budget constraints.
With the District Municipality now looking at finding resolutions to deal with its various challenges, what are your thoughts on this? Share your views in the comment section below.