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WATER CRISIS

‘We have failed you, the people of Hammanskraal,’ says Ramaphosa

‘We have failed you, the people of Hammanskraal,’ says Ramaphosa
President Cyril Ramaphosa (centre) and officials at the Rooiwal Wastewater Treatment Works on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

President Cyril Ramaphosa said various spheres of government would work together to resolve the Hammanskraal water crisis, but it’s unclear where the money will come from.

It will take R4-billion and about three years to resolve the ongoing water crisis in Hammanskraal, north of Pretoria, President Cyril Ramaphosa revealed on Thursday during his widely anticipated visit to the epicentre of the current cholera outbreak.

The City of Tshwane, in its 2023/24 budget, allocated only R150-million annually over the next three years to refurbish the Rooiwal wastewater treatment plant.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

The community of Hammanskraal acknowledges President Cyril Ramaphosa at Temba Stadium on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

On Thursday, the Department of Health announced that the death toll from the cholera outbreak had risen to 31 countrywide, which Ramaphosa and his entourage apologised for. Twenty-nine deaths have been recorded in Gauteng, one in Free State and one in Mpumalanga.

“We are sorry that it has taken the deaths of a number of people, even though we have not yet confirmed that the cholera deaths are as a result of the water supplied to residents. Your basic human right of having clean water — we have not lived up to your expectations as the people of Hammanskraal,” said Ramaphosa.

“We have failed you, the people of Hammanskraal.”

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works during President Cyril Ramaphosa’s tour on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

The Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works during the tour by President Cyril Ramaphosa on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

It’s unclear how the government plans to contain the outbreak when the source is unknown. There’s also the question of where the R4-billion to fix Rooiwal will come from.

“We need to find the money, money that is going to be invested there, but also the commitment and determination must be there at a council level,” Ramaphosa said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Tshwane mayor points finger at ‘network of corruption’ as cholera death toll rises to 17

The President, flanked by Water and Sanitation Minister Senzo Mchunu, Health Minister Joe Phaahla, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink started his tour of the area with an inspection of the Rooiwal wastewater treatment plant.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak phaahla brink lesufi mchunu

From left: Minister of Health Joe Phaahla, Tshwane Mayor Cilliers Brink, Gauteng Premier Panyaza Lesufi and Minister of Water and Sanitation Senzo Mchunu at Rooiwal Waste Water Treatment Works on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Raw sewage has been pouring into a river near the plant, which treats Hammanskraal’s sewage. For many years Hammanskraal residents have been subjected to undrinkable water while upgrades of the plant commenced and never finished.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Deadly cholera outbreak in Hammanskraal was ‘just a matter of time’

During his visit, Ramaphosa appeared to be visibly shocked by the deteriorating condition of the plant, which he was informed had no single engineer to oversee the treatment of the water or inspect the water’s quality.

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

The community of Hammanskraal reacts to President Cyril Ramaphosa during his address at Temba Stadium on 8 June 2023. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Hammanskraal cholera outbreak

The community of Hammanskraal listens to President Cyril Ramaphosa. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

Addressing hundreds of residents at Temba Stadium, Ramaphosa pointed to several failures of the DA-led government, without alluding to the fact that Tshwane politics have 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, Freedom Front Plus and ACDP.

Edwin Sodi and the R295m tender

One of the contributing factors to the crisis, according to Ramaphosa, was the awarding of a R295-million tender to upgrade and refurbish Rooiwal to companies linked to controversial businessman Edwin Sodi.

Only 68% of the work was done, forcing the city to cancel the contract, which was found to have flouted procurement processes and included a number of irregularities.

“These tenders are the ones that get us into trouble because you find that those with the tender fight amongst themselves, fight for money. In the end, it is our people who then suffer,” said the President.

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President Cyril Ramaphosa and government officials during a media briefing at Temba sports grounds on 8 June 2023 following the outbreak of cholera in Hammanskraal. (Photo: Felix Dlangamandla)

“Because, had the work been done properly in that waterworks, much as we still don’t know the cause of the cholera, the provision of clean, quality water would have been a right you would have been able to access.”

About three years ago, Parliament raised the alarm about the plant being poorly operated and maintained. The Rooiwal upgrade, which began in early 2020, cost the city more than R2-billion, according to a report in News24

Ramaphosa also blamed the municipality for its inability to allocate funding.

“Another problem is that the municipality said it didn’t have money, but they have been getting the money. They are not budgeting properly; sometimes when the money comes it disappears.”    

Ramaphosa’s criticism of the DA-led administration can be seen as a campaigning tool for his own party, the ANC, ahead of the 2024 elections.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Killer cholera hits amid decade-long bickering over Hammanskraal water crisis – and tender scandals

Mayor Brink previously attributed the Rooiwal crisis to a network of corruption which the city had failed to eradicate. Ramaphosa too admitted that several things had gone wrong, but said they would soon be rectified.   

He argued that part of the reason the Rooiwal plant struggled was due to the city’s growing population and that the municipality needed to expand the waterworks, invest money in the plant and focus on its maintenance.  

“There have been errors and mistakes and they must be corrected,” said Brink.

One of the immediate solutions is for the City of Tshwane to continue providing water to Hammanskraal residents with water tankers, a suggestion that residents vehemently rejected. Some residents claimed the water in the tankers was unsafe and in some cases was sold to them.

Ramaphosa said the city would look into allegations of water being sold from tankers. He urged residents to always boil their water, another suggestion they seemed to reject as they asked, “With which electricity?”

Another suggestion the President touched on was the building of another water system by the Magalies Water authority, which he said would provide clean water in six months.

Ramaphosa also mandated Lesufi — who in April announced that 3,000 “crime wardens” would be deployed across the province to assist in the fight against crime and lawlessness — to employ young people to be trained as water wardens.

Ramaphosa said all three spheres of government would need to work on an integrated approach to address the water challenges faced by Hammanskraal residents.

“Money will be made available from various departments of the government, including the city. The city will also make a contribution to make sure that we revamp and expand Rooiwal.” DM

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  • Bryan Macpherson says:

    “We have failed you, the people of South Africa” – that is what he should have said.
    And to think that people dance and sing on his arrival while their children and friends die!

  • Derek Jones says:

    Ramaphosa is shocked again.

  • Graeme Bird says:

    While Ramaphosa is deflecting. The DA is also clearly responsible. Yet the comments here are strangely silent about a major local government failure.

  • Dennis Bailey says:

    Money will be made available, you say, Mister preZ. Money will be looted. You have let us all down not just Hammerskraal. You and your ANC have wrecked all that moves and made the country work. You and yours are a corrupt, unprincipled, indiscipline, unaccountable sham.

  • J dW says:

    Apparently Ramauseless received a warm welcome from the Hammanskraal community before blaming the DA for the mess. Politicians will blame the past, their predecessor or any one else rather than take responsibility, it is what they do. I just don’t understand how the ANC is still polling so far above anyone else. Given their track record they should barely be at 20% but the voters keep on supporting them, and that is the reason why nothing is changing. We unfortunately then get the government we deserve because this is the government we want.

  • Steve Davidson says:

    This, for me, is why the DA should give up the idea of coalitions unless the partners agree that they would accept the DA’s rules – based on how excellently they do things in the Cape – from the start. In fact I believe they should also do a 5-minute video maybe with a split screen, showing how well – despite having to deal with ongoing incoming economic refugees from the ANC’s useless management in the EC – they do things here compared to the rest of the country, and put it on as many media platforms as possible. ‘Look, no potholes!’

  • Change is good sa says:

    OMG, save us from this ridiculous man and his now highly dangerous ANC party, who put South African citizens lives at risk every single day through corruption and incompetence.

  • Jeremy Stephenson says:

    What neither Ramaphosa nor this columnist troubled to mention is that the person who walked away from the failed Rooiwal water treatment plant is Edwin Sodi. Sodi is famous for all the wrong reasons in connection with the 2014 Free State asbestos swindle. He has many similarly devious scams under his belt. And he is historically a lavish benefactor of the ANC.

  • Divienne Conyngham says:

    What a joke!!! Ramaphosa and the ANC have let the whole country down. When the Pres deigns to wander into ordinary people’s lives he expresses “shock” at the state of things. Doesn’t he realise that the whole country is falling apart? How many times must he and his ilk be told that words, promises and commissions just don’t cut it. Fix the rot, get rid of the extortionists and slim down the fat cats in government and municipal offices and then maybe, just maybe our country can begin to rise from this debauchery.

  • Caroline de Braganza says:

    Another electioneering photo-op with the crowd cheering him on as he spouts a fountain of empty promises.

  • Andrew W says:

    A cheering crowd, when the government is killing people in the community. That might just be the scariest part. Impossible to fathom. Life esidimeni, hammanskraal, violence against women and children at warlike levels, marikana, HIV, July riots the list goes on. Cry the Beloved country. As the people of SA, let’s not dance when a squirrel appears let’s have him do what we pay him to do. Impossible to understand what the folks in hammanskraal are experiencing. Thoughts and prayers with that community

  • Hester Dobat says:

    Once again our president is ‘shocked’. DA is trashed and blamed, a humble acknowledgement from the president for letting them down and a promise of a huge influx of specialists with the added hook of employment opportunities, and one wonders when those poor people get to their homes, if they will talk about the fact that the president and the big guys from parlement visited them and ‘listened’ to them- or the fact that more promises have been made and there is no guarantee that it will actually happen. Will they go to bed with a sense of contentment or scepticism. Time will tell.

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