Maverick Citizen

OUTAGE CRISIS

Embattled Cradock has added water shedding to its creaking reticulation system

Embattled Cradock has added water shedding to its creaking reticulation system
Cradock in the Eastern Cape. An ‘electricity disconnection spree’ by the Inxuba Yethemba Local Municipality has been stopped by Eastern Cape Division of the High Court. (Photo: Chris Marais)

With temperatures regularly soaring into the high thirties and many visitors expected, the Cradock Business Forum has voiced concern about a decision to implement night-time water shedding on the eve of a busy festive season. This comes after officials said the town’s water reticulation had become ‘unstable’ due to high consumption and rolling blackouts.

The business community in Cradock is fuming following the announcement – amid ongoing water outages – that there will now be nightly water shedding as the festive season looms.

Guesthouses, petrol stations and restaurants benefit from the traffic to South Africa’s coastal towns over the December holidays, since the N10 runs through the town. 

But now there is concern whether businesses will be able to keep bathrooms open and provide coffee, food and overnight accommodation as the water crisis deepens.

Water is provided to Cradock by the Chris Hani District Municipality. The water services competency was taken away from the Inxuba Yethemba Municipality about 20 years ago when the district municipality was established.

“Dis ‘n fokop,” Wilhelm Smith, who heads the Cradock Business Forum, said. 

“When I get up in the morning, I first check if we have water. Then I check if we have electricity. Some days we have neither. I just want to get back into bed,” he said. “It is sad to see what is happening here.”

High-lying areas in the town have borne the brunt of the water crisis, with some being without any for a week at a time.

Smit owns and runs a fuel station in town. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Karoo towns left high and dry after water reticulation system fails due to rolling blackouts

Gcobani Mashiyi, the municipal manager who signs off his notices with “Yours in Service Delivery”, issued a notice saying that the water to both Cradock and Middelburg will be cut from 9pm to 4am every day, with immediate effect, until the situation stabilises.

Nobody knows when that will be.

Mashiyi said the water instability was caused by high consumption and “technical challenges associated with recurrent power outages”.

One of these challenges, Smit said, was that the diesel account for generators, so pumps can continue throughout load shedding, had been closed due to what the municipality called administrative challenges. 

A single truck for each town is now providing water during these outages.

“We went on an oversight visit in July,” Smit said. “We were supposed to go back to check that everything had been fixed. We are still waiting. 

“The water outages in town have a massive impact on business. Just to mention a few, we have an abattoir here. How do they work without water to wash? Guesthouses must serve breakfast, do washing and clean, but there is no water.

“I run a petrol station and a truck stop. The guys come here from the mines. They are dirty. I can’t give them coffee or food. They can’t wash their trucks.


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“There are old-age homes and a hospital here. What are they doing? 

“It is one thing to say the water will be off from 9pm to 4am, but when there is load shedding there also isn’t water.

“I was at a meeting where the municipality told us that their diesel account had been closed ‘due to administrative constraints’. We all know what that means. 

Sewage in the water

Smit is worried about increased traffic in town during the festive season. “Must I tell people that they can’t use the bathroom? They will just drive on. What do I do when a taxi full of people stops here? 

The malfunctioning sewerage system was another huge headache for business people in town. 

“The raw sewage just runs into the river. When we visited the sewage works in July it was working at 20% capacity.”

Smit said a meeting called to discuss the integrated development plan for the municipality derailed last week when all people wanted to talk about was the water. 

Read in Daily Maverick: “Eastern Cape municipality fined R1-million for deliberate neglect of landfill site

“The mayor told us that she knows that word ‘gatvol’ that we are using and that she too was ‘gatvol’ of all the complaints,” he said. 

“The town’s water system is a good system but maintenance is not being done. Tanks are leaking. Drains are blocked. The sewage has filled the town’s swimming pool. 

“We don’t take a chance to drink the town’s water,” he added.

Call for report

Pheelo Oliphant, spokesperson for Zolile Williams, the MEC for cooperative governance and traditional affairs in the province, said Williams recognised the problems in Cradock as a crisis and has called for a report on the problem as well as steps to be taken to solve it. 

Roughly a decade after taking over the water services function from the Inxuba Yethemba Municipality in Cradock, the Chris Hani District Municipality (based in Komani) complained in 2015 – after residents had filed a petition at Parliament about the state of water reticulation – that it had inherited the following problems: A non-functional wastewater system, financial burdens, delays in paying maintenance providers, and regular sewage spills. 

At the time the municipality promised to fix the wastewater works, but its “action plan” was rejected by the Department of Water and Sanitation. 

In 2020, after a preliminary investigation, the South African Human Rights Commission said it would launch a full investigation into the water situation in the town since it was violating residents’ human rights. DM/MC

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Carsten Rasch says:

    There was great hope during the last election that the DA would win enough seats to unblock the town, but the ANC somehow held on. Cradock was once a little gem of a town but is now just a shabby example of how ANC-run municipalities operate. Even the Cradock 4 Memorial site, built at great cost in honour of the four activists killed by apartheid security police is a sight for sore eyes, a physical example of the neglect and lack of care ANC politicians and cadres are guilty of. There is no money because it all goes into the greedy pockets of that lot. These mafutas get fatter while the entire town suffers. But they still win elections. How is this possible?

  • Lisbeth Scalabrini says:

    For more than 15 years no maintenance has been done, be it water tubes, sewage systems, electricity outlets, roads, sewer wells (if they exist) etc. No wonder nothing works anymore. And we all know where the money has gone. Lack of maintenance is the cause of most of the daily problems of the SA citizens and then of course there is the lack of a properly trained workforce and this goes for employees from the bottom to the top, ministers included.

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