DWS owed nearly R600M

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GK CRONJE

21 September 2021

It’s not all bad news, though. MLM has managed to whittle their water debt down from R676 million over the span of a year. However, as demand increases, so does the debt, and in turn, so does the repayment.

The Department of Water and Sanitation (DWS) has urged the public to continue using the available water wisely, sparingly and in a more conservative manner as the Spring and Summer approaches. However, the department also made the announcement of ballooning municipal debt. Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) has officially taken the crown from the notorious trio, Govan Mbeki Local Municipality, Lekwa Local Municipality and Emalahleni Local Municipality, with debt owed to the DWS to the tune of R598 417 326. This is money that could have gone towards the delivery of services. MLM has become synonymous for water supply shortages, water outages and dubious water quality due to dilapidated infrastructure. This further aggravated by the fruitless and irregular expenditure of nearly R60 million, as per the 2019/2020 annual report.

Later figures were not available at time of publication. An actual water distribution loss of approximately 42% was reported. The losses and debt aren’t the least of MLM’s worries, though. Ermelo and the surrounding areas are rapidly expanding, and a significant increase in demand of water has been noted. Adequate water provision is still a major issue for the municipality, so much so that they have been dragged to the Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) due to the lack of running and potable water within its areas of governance. Following a massive hoopla and extensive investigations, MLM was, for all intents ad purposes, forced to provide service delivery to destitute residents struggling with water provision. At great financial strain, the Deputy Minister of Water and Sanitation, David Mahlobo, announced the Greater Breyten Water Supply Scheme project in Warburton in March 2021. The project, which is scheduled to be completed in 2024, will ensure that the residents in Breyten, Chrissiesmeer, Lothair and Warburton will have access to water.

It’s not all bad news, though. MLM has managed to whittle their water debt down from R676 million over the span of a year. However, as demand increases, so does the debt, and in turn, so does the repayment. Feedback is being awaited from the Rand Water Board regarding the status of MLM. According to the latest figures, at 84.0%, the Morgenstond Dam in the Gert Sibande District is the only dam that remained unchanged in the province. The rest of the listed dams in the district continued to drop, with Grootdraai Dam dropping from 79.9% to 79.3%, Nooitgedacht from 95.1% to 95.0%, Vygeboom from 93.9% to 92.9%, Jericho from 71.4% to 70.5%, Westoe from 58.2% to 56.6% and Heyshope from 84.5% to 84.4%. The DWS encourages responsible water use to prevent
the unnecessary loss of precious water in the province. At the time of publication, the relevant MLM departments failed to respond to enquiries submitted.