By Luvuyo Mjekula
Accused of destroying solid and longstanding infrastructure of a town built more than 200 years ago, Makana Municipality mayor Yandiswa Vara hit back at her critics last week.
“Two hundred years ago, this municipality was built for one section of the town. Now, the capacity cannot meet the demand. We did not mess up the infrastructure of this town,” she said emphatically.
Earlier, Makhanda residents had taken turns throwing strong accusations at Vara and her eight councillors during her mayoral imbizo at City Hall on Thursday last week.
A local advocate even called on the mayor and the councillors to resign with immediate effect because he said they have failed to manage the institution despite huge salaries.
“The service in this city is pathetic – the state of infrastructure is appalling, vehicles are damaged, and not long after being taken for repairs, they are damaged again. If you cannot manage this city, why don’t you resign now and let those who know manage? asked advocate Izak Smuts.
Another resident, Greg Wilmot, accused the municipal councillors of neglecting citizens and social issues such as the high crime rate. Both Smuts and Wilmot said they had lived in Grahamstown for many years, and it had never been as bad as it currently is.
“The town now is in shambles,” another resident, Harry Porthen, declared.
The residents pointed to a long list of problems in the town – water leaks, bad roads, refuse collection, illegal dumping, cable theft, dysfunctional street lights and sewer spillages, to name a few.
Today, all eyes will be on water and sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu as he is expected to visit the embattled Makana municipal council amid never-ending water problems in Makhanda.
Vara and her councillors confirmed to residents at the mayoral imbizo last week that they had to revert to stricter water rationing due to a flooded pump station at Howiesonspoort Dam and an offline James Kleynhans Dam.
In a joint notice issued this week, the municipality, the water and sanitation department and Amatola Water advised residents that the municipality has been experiencing water challenges since the flooding incident and because of the offline plant. “This has left many areas without water supply,” the notice read.
According to the document, the pump was expected to be repaired by today (Friday). The replacement motor was to be commissioned today, after which pumping would resume. Eskom reportedly attended to the electrical fault at James Kleyhans, and the treatment works reportedly got back online on Sunday. “Pumping has resumed, and reservoir levels are picking up.”
The Andrew Hemroobpipe burst was still undergoing repairs, leaving residents in high-lying areas with an inadequate water supply.
“Water restrictions are currently implemented on a day-on, day-off basis until the issues are resolved. Evening restrictions will, however, remain in place.” Water trucks would be dispatched to the affected areas. Amatola Water and Makana Municipality both apologized for the inconvenience.
Water was closed on Wednesday and reopened on Thursday, and this would continue until further notice.
With Mchunu’s expected visit today, it is hoped he will permanently resolve the municipality’s water crisis.
Dubbed a stakeholders’ meeting, the gathering is said to form part of the minister’s commitment he made during his earlier visit in August this year.
At the mayoral imbizo, the fed-up residents demanded disciplinary action against the pump operator believed to be responsible for the incident.
Municipal manager Phumelele Kate reported that preliminary report findings suggested that there was no one at the station to call for help to stop the flooding.
“It is a regrettable setback in providing water daily.”
Kate said one of two pump operators has been placed on precautionary suspension.
Vara acknowledged that the municipality needed a reliable water supply but said they had no choice but to switch water on and off alternately to cope with the setbacks.
According to the document the mayor presented at the imbizo, water and sanitation are included as key focus areas in the municipality’s clustered wards development priorities.
On her key development issues, the mayor spoke to water services interventions and listed insufficient drinking water due to inadequate infrastructure water provision and ageing infrastructure.
In terms of intervention, the mayor said water infrastructure needed to be repaired and maintained. More than R11m would be spent on the projects.
Vara also consented that service delivery is unsatisfactory.