Water leaks continue in Port Elizabeth amid water crisis

A leaking tap at the entrance of Motherwell Old Age Home. Photo by Joseph Chirume

The Democratic Alliance-led Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality is facing a water crisis and just like how the party responded to the crisis in Cape Town, they are making the ratepayers pay for their mistakes.

Motherwell, South Africa

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality (NMBM) in Eastern Cape is facing a water crisis. The municipality said they are not expecting Day Zero sooner than their counterparts in Cape Town.

NMBM has, like the City of Cape Town, implemented punitive measures instead of taking proactive measures. Interviews with residents and a walkabout paint a picture of mismanagement of the crisis.  Some residents argue that the municipality could be saving water if they carried out regular maintenance on the aging water system. The residents argue that the municipality is losing millions of litres of water through water leaks and burst sewage pipes.

However, NMBM spokesperson Mthubanzi Mniki said that the metro has for the past period of time been enforcing strict water restrictions, which includes increasing the price of water, and the employment of more plumbers to deal with water leaks and fix meters. He added that the municipality recently embarked on a process of installing water controllers in households that use too much water. The City of Cape Town has implemented level 6B that is accompanied by high water tariffs.

Mniki explained, “We request people to use 50 litres of water per day per person. The municipality is having a 24/7 call centre to report water leaks and burst pipes. We are also doing awareness campaigns across the metro for people to save water. The municipality recently opened boreholes for non-drinkable water usage, like car wash, irrigation, filling of swimming pools, and other uses. The borehole is situated behind the Motherwell Cemetery.

“We strictly supervise the plumbers who attend to water leaks so that they can fix leaks at the best possible turnaround time. We are working with Metro Police to monitor water usage and whether people adhere to current water restrictions.”

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Mniki said the municipality did not anticipate Day Zero happening.

Some residents say that the municipality is giving residents false hope without taking into account the huge volumes of water that are being lost through broken pipes and malfunctioning communal water taps. Disillusioned residents argue that the municipality does not respond in time when called to fix problems.

Nomamerica Ncedani is a fruit and vegetable informal trader at the entrance to the Motherwell Old Age Home. She said the two water taps outside of the old age home are used by residents of Bob-plaas informal settlement. Both the taps are damaged and the environment is muddied with flowing water that flows non stop.

Nomamerica explained, “These taps got damaged last October. I reported to the municipality to come and repair them but nothing has happened since then. I have a reference number to prove that I reported this case. It pains me that water is allowed to flow uncontrollably in the road without any attention from the municipality.

“The municipality is spending  a lot of money educating people how to use water sparingly, yet they should equally lead by example by fixing damaged infrastructure,” said the 55-year-old.

Nomamerica Ncedani says that she reported the leaking tap 3 months ago and it has not been fixed. Photo by Joseph Chirume

Nomzamo Khama, who lives in Nkume street, Motherwell NU 11 said there is a house in their neighbourhood where the sewage manhole is always overflowing with excrement. She said the owners of the house live in another section of Motherwell.

“There is always a river of sewage all the time flowing and covering our backyards. Besides fearing for diseases and the stench from the sewage, the water that is lost is too much. The municipality should act diligently to avoid losing lots of water during such spills. At the end, it is us residents who end up paying for that water,” she explained.

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Residents say that an overflowing sewage pipe in Motherwell that has not been attended to illustrates the state of water mismanagement by the city. Photo by Joseph Chirume

Recent dam level readings are as follows: Kouga Dam is at 9,95%, Churchill 18,92, Impofu at 43,71, Loerie at 83,71 and Groendal at 51,80%.

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About Joseph Chirume 18 Articles
I was born in the shoe manufacturing town of Gweru in Zimbabwe,1970. I came to South Africa and did some odd jobs before writing for a number of publications. At present I am doing a Masters in Journalism through distance learning.