Government to step in as one of South Africa’s biggest cities runs out of water
Water and Sanitation minister Senzo Mchunu has intervened to resolve water challenges in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality (NMBMM).
Accompanied by deputy minister, David Mahlobo, Mchunu held an engagement with Amatola Water Board, business sector, municipal and provincial leadership in Gqeberha on Friday, with the aim of reducing the effect of severe drought, resolve water availability challenges and avert imminent failure of the system in Nelson Mandela Bay.
Water levels in the municipality are currently at an all-time low, with one of the dams, Kouga, that is servicing the metro, sitting at 13% this week.
Mchunu said this is a clear manifestation of climate change, which resulted in a shortage of rainfall for a period of approximately seven years.
“This is a cause for concern, and it is having an adverse effect on the livelihood of people in the area. The emptiness of the dams and overall water scarcity in Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality is nothing short of a horror,” Mchunu said.
Mchunu instructed the technocrats, led by Water and Sanitation Director-General Dr Sean Phillips, Amatola Water Board interim chairperson Pam Yako and NMBMM Mayor Eugene Johnson, to caucus and conceive sustainable ideas of improving the water situation and possibly avoiding the dreaded “day zero”.
Following a short deliberation from the technocrats, as per the minister’s instruction, it was agreed that water consumption needs to be reduced to 230 Ml/d (millilitre per day) as a matter of urgency. It was suggested that an aggressive communication strategy is needed to conscientise the public to ensure that water usage is kept at minimal levels.
It was also agreed that metering should be implemented immediately, and water leakage management needs to be accelerated and prioritised.
Mchunu announced that the department is intervening through Section 63 of the Water Services Act, 108 of 1997, at Nelson Mandela Bay and appointed Amatola Water as the implementing agent.
This means that the department will take leadership of water and sanitation projects to resolve water challenges.
“The situation is very dire. We are closing in on day zero [and] this is a grave threat to the livelihood of the people, hence we are intervening. We need technical skills to resolve the water situation, not politics,” Mchunu said.
The minister reiterated that the department is going to form a formidable partnership with Amatola Water as the implementing agent, and he is confident that day zero will be averted.
He further pleaded with water users to refrain from consuming more water than the municipality can provide.
Mahlobo indicated that through Section 63, the department will not be taking over but will be working closely with everyone concerned, including municipalities and water boards.
He also emphasised the need for leadership to be “singular minded”.
“Rise to the occasion. We can’t play games with the lives of the people. Let us stop exposing our people to situations where their existence is going to be threatened,” the deputy minister said.
The Nelson Mandela Bay Metro Mayor welcomed Mchunu’s intervention in the spirit of inter-governmental relations.