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Charges laid in Matzikama Municipality after ‘sabotage’ left two Western Cape towns without water

Charges laid in Matzikama Municipality after ‘sabotage’ left two Western Cape towns without water
Neels Van Sckalkwyk prepares water for children to use at Maskam Primêre Skool at Vanrhynsdorp during the September water supply failure. (Photo: Nathi Qondile)

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. 

sabotage infrastructure water

Anna Titus from Mangaung informal settlement in Vredendal carries supplies during the water outage in September. (Photo: Nathi Qondile)

“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.

Matzikama’s woes

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


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • virginia crawford says:

    The question that never gets answered, the crime that’s never punished: who buys the stolen copper?

  • Ritchie Morris says:

    Why the disgusting pile of waste in the photo with the lady walking past? Two parties to blame – firstly the municipality for not placing a waste skip there, and secondly the residents for causing the problem by just throwing it in a pile and not taking collective action to clean it up. Both have ‘behaved themselves into the filth problem’. Take ownership.

    • Max Ozinsky says:

      I also noticed that picture. But it seems the residents place it there for the council to collect and as you say the council did not even put a skip there or collect it.

      • Pet Bug says:

        Re that image.
        I’ve been to countries at war, in Africa, and I never saw that kind of rubbish laying around. Those communities had no services what so ever, but never did the villages or community look like that. Was not tolerated.
        We are just dirty, disinterested, with complete lack of self respect or comprehension of self; and inhumane to fellow residents.
        I’m getting despondent.

    • William Dryden says:

      I agree, the residents should put their waste in black plastic bags and place them somewhere until the municipality provides a skip or services. We have the same problem where i live, the township residents just dump their rubbish where they like, such an eyesore, its like they have no pride in their surroundings.

  • Denise Smit says:

    Still trying to cast a cloud over the DA management at the behest of your party the ANC/EFF. Please update yourself and compare with the audit reports of municipalities and debt in other provinces. Of course this will continue to come up until next year’s elections. Denise Smit

  • Annie Conway says:

    ‘Somebody’ will mos come and pick up the garbage. South Africans have no sense of pride when it comes to their communities. Our hands are in our pockets.

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