UNCOOPERATIVE GOVERNANCE

Eastern Cape: Makana Local Municipality orders new pumps as water crisis drags on

By Estelle Ellis 23 February 2021

Yusuf Ganget from Gift of the Givers assisting desperate community members with water. (Photo: Screengrab)

The Makana municipality bought new pumps for the town’s main water treatment works after a catastrophic failure at the plant led to extensive water outages in Makhanda. The broken pumps, according to the municipality, had to be sent to Johannesburg to be fixed. On Monday night, the municipal manager said he was ‘holding thumbs’ that the crisis would be over by the weekend.

The Eastern Cape’s Makana municipality has procured new pumps for Makhanda’s water treatment works as the existing ones had to be sent to Johannesburg for repairs. 

The collapse of the water works, after a power station was flooded when one of the pipes blew a gasket, has left large parts of the town without water since Tuesday, 16 February.

“We are holding thumbs,” said Moppo Mene, manager of Makana municipality, on Monday night after a meeting at the town’s James Kleynhans water treatment works.

“The pumps have been taken to Johannesburg for fixing,” Mene said. “They are expected to be in Makhanda on 3 March.”

Meanwhile, the council has bought new pumps which are expected to arrive in the town on Thursday.

Desperate residents from Makhanda scrambling for water from the Gift of the Givers truck. (Photo: Screengrab)

“The work will be done on Thursday to Friday and communities can expect to have water on Saturday or Sunday,” he said.

Shops and homes across Makhanda have been dry for a week, leaving many people frustrated and angry.

“My phone has not stopped ringing,” said Corene Conradie from the humanitarian organisation, Gift of the Givers, adding that clinics, schools and soup kitchens were all asking for water.

“The children are used to arriving at the soup kitchen at a certain time… and then the ladies must explain to them that they cannot cook because they do not have water,” she said.

A year ago, the Makhanda High Court ordered that the municipality be dissolved as a result of its unconstitutional failure to deliver services to the community. The ruling is currently being appealed by both the municipality and the Eastern Cape provincial government. 

Residents from Makhanda get water from the Gift of the Givers truck. (Photo: Screengrab)

In January 2020, following the ruling, the municipality announced that the James Kleynhans pump station had been refurbished, with R78-million budgeted for the 2019/’2020 financial year. This included the refurbishment of the water supply pumps.

Meanwhile, Gift of the Givers is continuing to provide water to communities. The organisation drilled a “super borehole” at Ntsika secondary school after the town was plunged into crisis in 2019.

A spokesperson for the department of water and sanitation, Sputnik Ratau, said the department had in the past week provided a water truck to assist.  

“According to the municipality, the treatment works should be fixed by tomorrow and they will start recharging. It was expected that from the 18th it would take about a week to restore full supply [on] the 25th, give or take another two days. 

“The ultimate solution will be once the upgrade of the Jan Kleynhans water treatment plant is completed,” he said. DM/MC

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