Grahamstown water crisis: DA quick-fix steps needs commitment from ANC government

Dacre Haddon MPL

Shadow MEC for Local Government

If the ANC-led government is willing to make a serious commitment, Grahamstown’s water problems can be alleviated in five quick-fix steps, proposed by the DA.

The water problems of Grahamstown can be relieved if the town can get a proper commitment from the provincial and national government.   However, whether there is a real commitment from Local Government MEC Mlibo Qoboshiyane remains to be seen.  The DA was yesterday informed by the Makana Speaker’s Office that the MEC had postponed his visit to the town scheduled for today.  Water supply problems continue to plague the town.

We note with interest that the MEC will visit Grahamstown on Tuesday, the day on which the Makana Municipality’s water problems is likely to be debated in the Provincial Legislature following a request by me, on behalf of the DA.  The MEC is creating the impression that he is shying away from accounting to the Legislature.

The DA believes that Grahamstown’s water supply can be improved with five quick-win steps:

  1. A large reservoir to be built on the hill above Grahamstown (above the N2 next to the Waainek Water Treatment Works) to allow for gravity feed to all parts of Grahamstown.  Currently the Settler’s Monument, Prison, Army Base, Rhodes Post-grad village and upwards of ten Rhodes residences are above the existing reservoir’s base, which means they don’t get water until the level of the reservoir rises above their height.
  2. Re-connect the existing water supply from Jameson Dam and Milner Dam (known collectively as Slaaikraal) to the Waainek Water Treatment Works. This would permit a third source of water (in addition to the Glen Melville/Fish River supply and the Howieson’s Poort supply). This pipeline must be repaired as a matter of urgency (400m of pipe reported stolen recently) and enable the water to be treated in emergencies.  This would have a combined capacity of 649.6 Megalitres.
  3. Provide a shortened power line to the Howieson’s Poort pumps via the Thomas Baines Nature Reserve Eskom line (approximately 1km away), instead of the 15km of power line the current supply uses. The latter is susceptible to outages regularly, particularly in strong winds and is also an aging line subject to regular breakdown.
  4. Upgrade the pumps and motors at Howieson’s Poort pumping station. The two on hand are now over 60 years old.
  5. Introduce rainwater harvesting bylaws for all new construction.

In 2011 the Municipality asked the Development Bank of South Africa for R50m to install a new pipeline, header reservoirs and other critical water provision infrastructure.  The work is in progress but when the new Director joined last year, the council was informed that the full cost would R150m not R50m.  I will be taking up this issue with my DA-colleague in National Parliament, Kevin Mileham (MP).

If no commitment is made by the ANC during the expected debate i the Legislature on Tuesday, the DA will be left with no choice but to take legal action against the municipality for failing to fulfil its mandate in terms of the Constitution.   It is obvious that this municipality is in a state of chaos and that it cannot meet its Constitutional obligations to provide potable water to its citizens.

The impact on Rhodes University has highlighted this major issue, but the people in the townships of Grahamstown have been suffering these hardships for many years.  I have received confirmation from The Human Rights Commission that it has finalised an investigation into the lack of water supply and sanitation in Grhamstown’s Zolani and Phapamani informal settlement.  The report, with findings and recommendations, will be released to me once it has been signed by the SAHRC Commissioners.

All the people of Grahamstown deserve better.  The Makana Municipality is withholding the basic human right of access to water and a healthy environment from the people.  Communities are increasingly rebelling against the slow pace of service delivery. A DA-led government will ensure that our citizen’s basic rights are respected.