Charges laid in Matzikama Municipality after ‘sabotage’ left two Western Cape towns without water
The Matzikama Municipality has laid charges of deliberate damage to water infrastructure which left Vredendal and Vanrhynsdorp without water for a fortnight during peak flower tourism season.
Police are yet to arrest thieves who in September damaged and stole water infrastructure that left two towns in the northernmost Western Cape dry for almost two weeks.
The case was opened by the Matzikama Municipality in September.
Acting Matzikama municipal manager Lionel Phillips confirmed to Daily Maverick this week that he had laid charges with Vredendal police. Phillips alleged there had been “intentional damage to property on our potable water infrastructure that resulted in communities being without water for days”.
Matzikama encompasses the towns of Vredendal, Vanrhynsdorp, Klawer, Lutzville and Doringbaai. A coalition of the DA and the Freedom Front Plus govern the municipality.
Daily Maverick has previously reported on the water supply problems in Vredendal and Vanrhynsdorp that left residents and businesses without water for almost a fortnight. In Vanrhynsdorp, the peak of the water crisis occurred during the flower season, leaving accommodation owners stressed about the impact of having no water.
Read more in Daily Maverick: How two Western Cape towns ran dry – Coke bottles, missing director, ageing canals, broken pipes
During a question and answer session in the Western Cape legislature in September, Local Government MEC Anton Bredell described the damage to the municipality’s water infrastructure as “sabotage”.
Read more in Daily Maverick: Political blame game erupts over how two Western Cape towns ran dry
“We have also requested that the provincial minister of local government assist the municipality with an investigation into the suspected sabotage of our infrastructure,” said Phillips.
“Our water issues are resolved… there are no water shortages in our municipal area,” he said.
Western Cape police told Daily Maverick the case opened concerned the theft of copper cables and that no arrests had been made.
This week, the provincial local government department presented its 2022/23 annual report to the oversight committee in the Western Cape legislature.
Matzikama was brought up when committee member Cameron Dugmore (ANC) questioned which Western Cape municipalities faced a water crisis.
Eda Barnard, Chief Director: Municipal Performance Monitoring and Support, said the Matzikama water crisis “has been brought to our attention”. She confirmed the department had provided extensive support through “our own engineers spending time there, action plans and having additional funding to assist Matzikama to correct some of those challenges”.
Department head Graham Paulse said during the 16 October meeting: “They’ve identified that the recent water challenge was related to sabotage. They’ve gone and opened two cases at the police station in Matzikama.”
During the meeting, it also emerged that Matzikama faced an investigation by the department during the 2022/23 financial year into allegations of fraud, maladministration and corruption, according to a document from Bredell’s office to the provincial legislature. The investigation is continuing.
It’s not the first time the municipality has come under fire.
In 2022, Matzikama was probed by the Special Investigating Unit for irregularities including bid manipulation in Covid-19 procurement. The municipality also received an “unqualified with findings” audit outcome. The Auditor-General pointed to the municipality’s Eskom debt, which by 11 August 2022 stood at just over R97-million. At the time, the municipality had no payment plan in place. DM