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SAHRC complaint lodged against Msukaligwa Local Municipality


30 March 2021

"They think that we’re idiots, that we can’t see that they are lying."

As many residents in Breyten, Chrissiesmeer and surrounding areas sit with dry taps for more than 60 days, a big hoopla has been made by the National Government regarding the Greater Breyten Water Supply Scheme Project, which will be completed in 2024. David Mahlobo, deputy minister of the Department of Water and Sanitation, Cllr Muzi Chirwa, executive mayor of Gert Sibande District Municipality, and Agnes Mnisi, acting executive mayor of Msukaligwa Municipality, launched the project in Warburton. The grand announcement was even accompanied by a “water saving” theme, in which “valuing water” was the focal point.

This project, touted to solve all the water supply issues faced by residents, was met with grim dissatisfaction from residents who struggle with constant water outages on a daily basis, most notably in Breyten. “I work at a mine near Breyten, and the useless municipality expects me to make do with no water for weeks on end. It is a struggle on a daily basis, and Msukaligwa Municipality just doesn’t care,” one resident stated. While residents suffer for weeks on end, a few good Samaritans have made their boreholes available for neighbors to utilize. The promised water tankers from Msukaligwa Local Municipality also rarely make their arrival. “If the tankers arrive to deliver water, it is during the day. We are all at work during daytime, a tanker arriving at a closed door helps bugger all. The municipality just talks a load of rubbish, and makes empty promises that they fail to fulfill,” an extremely irate resident told the Tribune ePaper. Another resident lamented the constant barrage of alleged lies and tomfoolery from MLM with the greatest of disgust.

“I have an entire folder of screenshots from messages that the municipality sends, filled with poor excuses promises they never deliver on. They think that we’re idiots, that we can’t see that they are lying. The stories that they fabricate are nowhere near the same as the stories that our ward councillors tell us,” another resident explosively stated. “The call centre is just another useless part of the municipality. All they feed us are lies upon lies, and the stories they make up doesn’t even remotely coincide with what the technicians and municipal speakers on the WhatsApp group tells us. They don’t even give us reference numbers, they don’t take our details. What is the use of a call centre, if they don’t answer the phones 99% of the time?” he barked angrily. Speaking to Msukaligwa Local Municipality, no tangible information have been forthcoming either. Apart from the copy and paste response that residents have come to expect by now, citing the usual scapegoats of lack of equipment, and the old faithful trump card stating lack of funds and a cut budget, no concrete plan of action has been made available. MLM stated that vandalism of infrastructure is the main culprit of the outages, amongst other issues faced. However, there has been no action taken to actively remedy the situation in Breyten. Instead, the project from the DWS is being used a show horse to appease the residents, instead of immediate action being taken.

“What is this nonsense about a water pipeline upgrade. We don’t care about upgrades. They just use it to pretend that they’re doing something for residents. We are struggling with water right now. Some of us have been without water for 5 months, and now the municipality comes with a story of water supply in 2024. What will that water help us in two years? Must we then live without water for two years until the municipality decides that it wants to care about residents? It is a joke.” a resident from KwaZanele told the Tribune ePaper. A large collective or residents have had absolutely no water since February 2021, and it’s not getting any better. Empty promises and tall tales from Msukaligwa Local Municipality further frustrates residents, and a complete lack of response from ward councillors further fan the flames.

While the project seems like a magnificent initiative from local authorities and national government, sadly, they have been forced to act on water shortages following a successful complaint by the Democratic Alliance (DA) to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC). The DA held a public meeting in Skaapruiz informal settlement, with a specific focus of addressing this community’s concerns over the lack of water and greater service delivery, whereafter the DA submitted a letter to the SAHRC, requesting the Commission to investigate the provision of water in Skaapruiz and Nyibe. Research from the 2016/2017 Integrated Development Plan revealed that residents in Sheepmoore, Lothair, Chrissiesmeer and other areas of Msukaligwa Local Municipality have also complained of a lack of water, and the DA has included these areas in the complaint to the SAHRC. Following the complaint, the DA was informed that the municipality planned, and took steps to ensure that water given to Skaapruiz in the form of tankers, would be increased to three times a week, and this provision would be further increased to five times a week in July 2020. It was also found that water demand in Sheepmoore exceeds what the municipal boreholes can supply.

The construction of a 7.1km pipeline from the Usuthu Vaal pipeline to Sheepmoore, as well as various upgrades were proposed. In Lothair, MLM plans to resuscitate the Regional Bulk Infrastructure Grant project, and construct a pipeline between Breyten and Lothair. In Chrissiesmeer, there are plans to keep the reservoirs at 50% to maintain pressure. Speaking to Jane Sithole, the DA leader in Mpumalanga, she told the Tribune ePaper that further investigations would be focused on Breyten in particular, as the magnitude of the lack of water supply to residents is unacceptable. “The provision of water is a basic human right, and to expect residents to endure further hardships through failure of service delivery is unacceptable,” she stated.

“The DA will investigate the supply issues in Breyten, and provide updates as to the progress.” she concluded. The Tribune ePaper lodged an enquiry with Msukaligwa Local Municipality, requesting a statement regarding the complaints with the SAHRC, and what Msukaligwa Local Municipality is doing to remedy the immediate situation to alleviate the plight of residents in Breyten and other areas. MLM replied with the following: “There's nothing untoward and/or unheard of in a constitutional democracy that a chapter nine institution, be it public protector or Human Rights Commission of South Africa, will from time to time intervene on behalf of the citizenry, and to issue out directives as and when they deem it necessary to any organ of state. This indicates the effectiveness of the chapter nine institutions.” The Tribune ePaper is working closely with Jane Sithole, and will provide updates as it becomes available.

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