Residents vent their anger over water shortages

Residents threatened not to pay their rates and taxes after being without water for 18 days. More than 200 community members gathered to show their disapproval.
For the past couple of weeks the drought and water shortages have been topics of many discussions. In White River it has become more than just talk and residents are up in arms. After numerous complaints and no solutions, a meeting was called for last Thursday evening. It was attended by officials from Mbombela municipality and Silulumanzi.
Residents raised the issue of the water problem that had been going on for more than a month. They wanted to know why White River had been without water for so long.
Ms Caroline Zulu, the GM of Silulumanzi said the main problem was the illegal tapping of power from the transformers and the clamping of valves on the pipeline that supplied water to the town. The Mhluluzi illegal informal settlement seemed to be the culprit.
Zulu explained that on paper the water supply to White River was enough but due to the tapping into the power supply, this was a problem that could not be solved overnight.
The challenge that Silulumanzi has at the moment is to stop the leaks of the illegal clamping of the valves.
The illegal tapping of electricity had on several occasions been taken care of and resolved but reappeared. This crime happened at night and therefore Silulumanzi had no control over it.
Zulu said that on previous occasions the residents of the settlement had become violent and protested. With bigger houses being built there, the need for more power will increase and more residents will tap electricity from the transformers resulting in worse problems.
Ms Trudy Grove-Morgan informed the public that using hosepipes to wash vehicles or water gardens would result in heavy fines.
Some residents were using water from their swimming pools for domestic use. Mr Rowan Torr mentioned that restrictions were going to be stricter than usual. A new reservoir would be the answer to the problem and law-enforcement officers should arrest the perpetrators.
Corruption seemed to be the main issue and residents did not hesitate to express their doubts that anything had been done at all to solve the problem as it seemed like the illegal settlements were favoured rather than reprimanded.
Noko Seanego, municipal manager of Mbombela municipality, apologised profusely for the injustice done to the White River community and he understood their doubts. The fact that they attended the meeting also showed their commitment to address the problem. Throwing stones were not going to fix it and to get someone like AgriForum to speak on the community’s behalf might be a better way of communication. Feedback should be given to the community through a digital medium such as WhatsApp. They will also provide and monitor an extra reservoir, transformers and engage the police to patrol the area at the pump station.
The municipality promised that the immediate problems would get attention. An official wrote down contact numbers and arrangements would be communicated back to these residents.

Thelma Nel

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