GSDM's water tankers do little to appease disgruntled communities

GK CRONJE

25 August 2020

GSDM touted that the tankers handed over culminated in an amount of R10.3 million, which equates to approximately R1.4 million per tanker. This has already raised eyebrows, and stirred up a hornet’s nest, as similar tankers can be procured for as little as R450 000 each, if working on a tight budget. Residents bemoaned this fact, and claims that the prices of these tankers have been grossly overinflated.

Delivering on their promise to assist municipalities to deliver basic services, Gert Sibande District Municipality (GSDM) handed over seven 10 000 liter water tankers to seven municipalities, in a bid to improve service delivery to rural areas. “Gert Sibande District Municipality remains focused on its mandate which is to support local municipalities to provide excellent services and development. During the State of the District Address (SODA) for 2020, District Executive Mayor, Cllr. Muzi Chirwa, made a commitment that GSDM would continue to support local municipalities with service delivery fleet which is needed by the municipalities in the provision of basic services, especially in rural areas.

On 12 August 2020, GSDM lived up to its promises. Seven 10 000 liter water tankers, amounting to R10.3 million, were handed over to the local municipalities to help improve the provision of water to communities without access to running portable water particularly amid the corona virus outbreak,” the statement from GSDM read. While this act, in itself, is a boon for residents who struggle with potable water, the reception of the announcement of these tankers were less than positive. What is supposed to be a positive act, has turned to fury from residents questioning the logic, as well as the math, behind these water tankers. Residents lamented the fact that money is being wasted on fruitless expenditures, instead of implementing lasting solutions to issues faced. Community members questioned why boreholes weren’t considered, and why groundwork for running water weren’t laid with these funds. Another lamented the fact that townships are riddled with overflowing sewerage pipes and manholes, and that water tankers do nothing to assist the struggling communities.

Many residents outright stated that they do not trust the municipalities to use the tankers to its full potential, stating that they’ve never received potable water on the municipality’s own accord, even though they were so promised. Others were infuriated by the fact that a skyhigh Eskom bill, and the dismal electrical infrastructure could have been serviced with the cost of the tankers. GSDM touted that the tankers handed over culminated in an amount of R10.3 million, which equates to approximately R1.4 million per tanker. This has already raised eyebrows, and stirred up a hornet’s nest, as similar tankers can be procured for as little as R450 000 each, if working on a tight budget. Residents bemoaned this fact, and claims that the prices of these tankers have been grossly overinflated. Rubbing salt in the already smarting wounds of local municipalities that are teetering dangerously close to the brink of bankruptcy, GSDM has placed the onus of maintenance and upkeep of these tankers on the respective municipalities. The majority of these local municipalities can barely keep the ship afloat as is, without the need of additional financial strain. Govan Mbeki Local Municipality (GMM) is facing massive backlash from residents for their gross lack of service delivery and shocking mismanagement of their payment agreement with Eskom, which has resulted in municipal load shedding of up to 14 hours per day, coupled with incalculable water supply issues due to owing the Rand Water Board in excess of R245 million. Lekwa Local Municipality is knee-deep in lawsuits, as basic service delivery is virtually non-existent, and the ongoing pollution of the Vaal river being a major issue which the municipality has turned a blind eye to. Closer to home, Msukaligwa Local Municipality (MLM) owes Eskom a whopping R170 million, with a monthly repayment of nearly R10 million.

In a trajectory that is distressingly similar to that of GMM, the supply of electricity to residents have been rationed considerably, with outages of up to 48 hours in some area due to alleged cable faults and transformer overloads. Coupled with load shedding, which wreaks havoc on the ill-maintained electrical infrastructure of MLM, residents sit in the dark for hours on end, while MLM technicians desperately scramble to patch up the mess caused by the gross lack of maintenance. It’s six months later, and MLM still plods along with the rotational load shedding, and is yet to announce a recovery plan for the situation, if one exists at all. Unfortunately, this isn’t an issue that will resolve itself with dreams and good wishes, and MLM isn’t forthcoming with information.

This does not bode well for MLM, nor the frustrated, angry and desperate residents under it’s governance. In 2018, Premier Refilwe Mtshweni-Tsipane announced that MLM, amongst others, were announced as “being placed under financial rescue to address issues of financial mismanagement.” Alas, this initiative has failed, as the state, and mountains of debt of all mentioned municipalities, including MLM, have worsened. Frankly, Mpumalanga municipalities are in a deep financial crisis, and are on the brink of total collapse, and no amount of honey around the mouths of residents is able to hide this fact. Funds and assistance received from district, provincial and government levels are poured into an endless black hole of cadre employment, exorbitant salaries, luxury vehicles and a myriad of other fruitless expenditures.

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