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TIMELINE OF BLAME

Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals

Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals
Dr Kgosientsho Ramokgopa (Photo by Gallo Images/Darren Stewart)|Former (DA) mayor Stevens Mokgalapa .(Photo by Gallo Images / Phill Magakoe)|DA Leader in Gauteng, Solly Msimanga. (Photo by Gallo Images/OJ Koloti)|Herman Mashaba (ActionSA President).(Photo by Gallo Images/Luba Lesolle)|Tshwane mayor Cilliers Brink (Photo by Gallo Images/Frennie Shivambu) |Obakeng Ramabodu.Photo:Twitter

The cholera outbreak has killed 15 people so far in Hammanskraal, Tshwane, where water issues have long been used as a campaigning tool by political parties to gain votes and control in the metro. We take you through a timeline of Hammanskraal’s issues, what key political parties and leaders committed to and what they have done.

Thirteen years ago, it was reported that the Department of water affairs had declared the Apies River a disaster area after raw sewage had been pouring into the river located near the Rooiwal sewage treatment plant. That was in 2010.

In response to AfriForum’s petition calling on the Tshwane council to resolve the issue, the then council led by former mayor and now Minister of Electricity ANC’s Kgosientsho ‘Sputla’ Ramokgopa earmarked R11-million for maintenance and upgrading of the treatment plant.

In 2015 and 2016 residents of Hammanskraal and surrounding areas feared that raw sewage sludge, from the malfunctioning Rooiwal water treatment plant, was making its way into the Apies River and contaminating their water.

Meanwhile, Tshwane politics has been turbulent since the 2016 local government elections, with no party holding a majority in the council. After the 2021 local elections, the DA has been in a rocky coalition with ActionSA, the IFP, DA, Freedom Front Plus and ACDP.

 

After taking office in August 2016 following a coalition with other parties that led to the DA governing in the metro, the then mayor of the City of Tshwane DA’s Solly Msimanga issued a R2-billion tender to clean up contaminated water in Hammanskraal in November of the same year.

Despite Msimanga’s R2-billion tender to clean up contaminated water in Hammanskraal, the issues persisted during and beyond his reign.

In 2018, residents protested against the poor quality of water. They believed that the water was contaminated and could cause cholera and other health complications.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

A water tanker delivers to residents of Hammanskraal, the Gauteng department of health confirmed that the death toll in the cholera outbreak had risen to 15. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Msimanga’s successor — the DA’s Stevens Mokgalapa — also committed to trying to find a solution to the issues by engaging with the Department of Water and Sanitation, the provincial government and the human rights commission, after South African Human Rights Commission declared Hammanskraal water unfit for consumption in 2019.

When Randal Williams took over office his focus was upgrading the Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works in Hammanskraal, as old infrastructure had been blamed for the water crisis that has lasted for close to two decades.

The Rooiwal upgrade, which began in early 2020, cost the city more than R2-billion according to a report by News24. The upgrade remains uncompleted after the City of Tshwane terminated a contract with the service provider as a result of non-performance in August 2022.

Rooiwal is the biggest water treatment plant in Tshwane, treating almost half of the City’s wastewater.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

Constance Ngobeni and Grace Ngobeni, residents of Kanana in Hammanskraal, have to buy clean water due to a lack of service provision. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Williams quit in February 2023 amid an investigation into allegations of impropriety against him, relating to a R26-billion unsolicited bid to obtain a service provider, to refurbish, finance, operate and maintain the Pretoria West and Rooiwal power stations. 

Read in Daily Maverick: ANC in Tshwane spearheads motion of no confidence against mayor as probe begins into R26bn power bid

In his first State of the Capital Address, the incumbent Mayor Cilliers Brink had this to say about Rooiwal:

“The Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Plant requires special attention. It is an issue that is not only essential to the unity in the multiparty coalition government but also to our reputation as a City that cares for its people, especially the most vulnerable. 

“Let me be clear: Rooiwal is a stain on our conscience as a City, including successive administrations of several parties. But Rooiwal is also a warning of what could happen in other communities unless we clean out our supply chain management system, which in this City is, quite frankly, a festering sore infecting the rest of the body. Whether the cause of failure is corruption or inefficiency or a combination of both, we can no longer tolerate a system, including a management team, that produces one irregular tender after another.”

Diana Mashaba, a resident of Hamanskraal, has to buy water for her household. The Gauteng department of health confirmed that the death toll in the cholera outbreak had risen to 15. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

ActionSA

Ahead of the November 2021 local government elections, ActionSA championed the Hammanskraal water issue.

In August 2021 leader Herman Mashaba preempted an inquiry into the Hammanskraal water crisis.  

Mashaba’s inquiry found the City of Tshwane “insensitive, irresponsive, non-transparent, unaccountable and marked with delinquent inertia on the water crisis in Hammanskraal.”

He added, “The findings have emphasised, once more, that given the City’s continued inaction, the only way to bring lasting change to the community is to take the City of Tshwane to court for its failures.” 

Mashaba vowed if former mayor Williams failed to act on the Hammasnkraal water issues, he would take the matter to court.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

Constance Ngobeni, a resident of Hammanskraal,  carrying clean water she has had to pay for in lieu of a clean water supply. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

ANC-EFF

Last month the ANC-EFF partnership promised clean governance after several Gauteng metro takeovers and vowed to fix the problem of poor water quality in townships, especially Hammanskraal.

The ANC-EFF partnership has blamed the cholera outbreak on the DA administration.

“The tragedy unfolding in Hammanskraal is a direct outcome of a municipality that has been sleeping on the job and failed dismally to provide clean and safe drinking water to the people of Hammanskraal,” reads the ANC statement.

The EFF said it has taken a proactive approach to creating awareness of cholera in the Hammanskraal area through a door-to-door awareness programme. The party said it was visiting Jubilee district hospital as part of a wards cleanup campaign and to ensure there is no shortage of beds amidst the outbreak. DM

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Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Chris Skinner says:

    How many people must die before our govt realises that proper standards are there for very good reason. And accountability is the key to enforcement.

  • Iam Fedup says:

    Do the morons in the ANC/EFF really think that people will buy the argument that it’s all the DA’s fault? Let their track record of incompetence and thievery speak for itself. Of course, the DA isn’t doing itself any favours by bleating. How about providing obvious and irrefutable evidence of what they did? Even better, do what Mashaba threatens and lay charges or take them to court. When dozens of people die the time to talk is finished.

  • . . says:

    No mention of the Edward Sodi tender and associated graft?

  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    Children starve, they drown in pit latrines and now cholera kills them – and all the while, the ANC, its cadres and fellow travellers loot and steal and enrich themselves with the funds aimed at helping those children. This is ANC governance!

  • David Pennington says:

    The cANCer must have put “Fokol” in the drinking water

  • Barrie Lewis says:

    There’s plenty of clean water falling, free of charge, from the heavens for those willing to harvest and store it. Bigger is not always better. In fact is it ever? We’ve been collecting rainwater for 11 years now, and need municipal water only for two months in all that time. Pristine, free water. South Africans no longer know “how to make a plan.” They think the government should and can do it better.

    • Dee Bee says:

      Hi Barrie, what did it cost you to get off the water grid? Genuine question. It’s probably affordable for middle-income families (assuming they’re not drowning in debt), but not really for most South Africans. If you assume that a family of four can get away with 400 litres a day, a 10,000 litre Jojo would last for 25 days, which wouldn’t get you through a month of winter, never mind the whole winter. I’m really interested in your response, because we’ve just bought a house with a tank (2,000 litres) and I want to know how I can eke out the water we will gather next rainy season as much as possible.

  • Rory Short says:

    Governance at any level, national, provincial, local offers massive opportunities to steal wealth from the governed community consequently governance at any level has a high attraction for criminals and the electorate must never losesight of that fact.

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