An oversight visit to eThekwini Municipality’s Water and Sanitation Depot in Pinetown and Springfield has revealed that the city allegedly does not have sufficient materials to fix burst pipes, leaks and water meters.

However, eThekwini Municipality has labelled the visit as a political move by an opposition party ahead of elections saying that load shedding had been responsible for outages.

DA eThekwini councillor Mzamo Billy said the oversight visit was prompted by the high number of unresolved water-related complaints it had received, which left residents without water for days and even weeks.  Councillors Zamani Khuzwayo, Hlengiwe Shozi and Billy conducted the oversight inspections.

“What we came to witness is shocking. Both in Springfield and Pinetown Depot, the store shelves which are supposed to have material to help plumbers to fix leaks and burst pipes in the city are completely empty,” Billy said.

A video of the empty shelves can be watched here:

“The biggest challenge that all the stores have is the serious shortage of the fittings which are crucial for the day to day operation of the department. We have learnt that plumbers who are on shift often find themselves not being able to do their job when called due to the lack of material. When called to a job, without material, plumbers are unable to proceed and fix the complaint,” Billy said.

He said he had also learned that plumbers have had to resort to digging in the depot rubbish to find old material that can be reused to try and resolve a complaint.

He said the councillors had written to Water and Sanitation Head, Ednick Msweli, asking why the stocks were insufficient and what the city was doing to replenish materials. He also added that plumbers allegedly attended jobs and still charged for their time if there were no materials to complete the repair.

“The shortage of plumbing material has had a detrimental impact on the wellbeing of the residents in eThekwini. It cannot be accepted that a municipality as big as eThekwini is failing to ensure that there is sufficient material in its stores, this is a huge slap in the face of the ratepayers,” he said.

eThekwini Municipality spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela said it was “very incorrect” for the DA to “advance an argument to the effect that water outages are as a result of the city being low on stock.”

“Like any other city we have recently been severely affected by load shedding which impacted negatively on uMngeni Water being able to pump water to feed our reservoirs,” Mayisela said.

“Our Mayor Mxolisi Kaunda gave an instruction to the effect that certain pump stations must be exempted from load shedding and…we expeditiously overcame the challenge of water outages which were a result of circumstances that were way beyond our control.”

He said during unforeseen water outages the city always ensured that it mobilised its water tankers to affected areas.

“We cannot also deny the fact that like any other city we have got challenges in regard to cable theft in some of our water pump stations which to a large extent result in residents being without water. We also have challenges with regard to illegal connections to our infrastructure resulting in it being overburdened and occasionally causing water outages in certain human settlements,” Mayisela said.

He said the city was “proud” of its turnaround time for fixing burst pipes.

“We are fully aware that we are heading towards elections as a result, certain political formations will grasp at straws to appeal to the electorate. We are therefore appealing to the DA not to use these unexpected circumstances as their political currency,” Mayisela said.

“However, the city will always be receptive of constructive criticism from any political party and we encourage them to continuously do so, as long as it will be in the interest of the City.”

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Presh JM Reporter

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