No proof of water valves sabotage, official says
But police are probing allegations involving dissatisfied workers, writes Nomazima Nkosi
WHILE Nelson Mandela Bay mayor Athol Trollip has linked what he alleged to be the deliberate closure of water valves around the city to sabotage, municipal corporate services boss Vuyi Zitumane says there is no hard proof of this.
Since last month, thousands of residents have been left without water at weekends due to municipal workers refusing to work without being paid overtime.
Many of the water problems were later linked to valves which had been switched off in areas such as New Brighton, Zwide, Despatch and KwaNobuhle.
Trollip was adamant at a press conference in October and has said on social media since then, that it was sabotage.
“[It] is an act of sabotage compounded by political meddling,” he told journalists at the time.
One of Trollip’s tweets in October, stated: “This is confirmation of our fears of sabotage by workers who are staying away in protest against the application of council’s overtime policy.”
But Zitumane said there was no proof of the sabotage claims.
“There is no hard evidence of sabotage and only after the investigations have been concluded will a statement be issued in this regard,” she said.
Mayoral spokesman Sibongile Dimbaza said the municipality was looking at all scenarios as to why the valves had been switched off.
“However, we are of the opinion that the well-timed outages are as a result of human intervention, but we hope to gain more insight into the matter once ongoing internal investigations have been concluded,” he said.
Also referring to the loss of water supply in several areas at the same press briefing in October, engineering and infrastructure political head Annette Lovemore said: “We know who had keys to which valves. We are able to track which vehicles were where.”
But Zitumane said no official had been suspended or charged since the press briefing. “There is a sense of unhappiness and the executive directors are monitoring the situation and will report after identifying employees refusing to work overtime,” Zitumane said.
“This is due to an overtime policy dispute between the workers and the municipality, [with the workers] demanding that they be paid according to a long-standing collective agreement rather than a new overtime policy.”
She said departments mostly affected included electricity and energy; infrastructure and engineering; and public health.
The municipality has since laid a criminal charge at five different police stations around the city.
Police spokesman Captain André Beetge said police were investigating the matter further as “points of water cuts have not yet been identified by the police”.
“A case of contravening municipality bylaws is being investigated in terms of tampering with muni- cipal structures. Police are waiting for a document to be handed over by the municipality which identifies the points which have been tampered with,” Beetge said.
Lovemore said even though they had no hard proof, the municipality did know that specific valves had been opened and closed when this was not required.
“We know the valves were opened or closed after hours and special tools are required to open and close them.”
She said they had affidavits from “sources” who had seen what they believed to be people working on “our network exactly in those areas that were affected”.
Asked why no disciplinary ac- tion had been taken, Lovemore said the police were still investigating with an internal probe also under way.
SA Municipal Workers Union regional secretary Mqondisi Nodongwe said the municipality would receive an interdict soon, legally stopping it from implementing the new overtime policy.
In response to sabotage allegations made by Trollip, Nodongwe said it was the mayor himself who was sabotaging the municipality by introducing unlawful policies. “We are not farm workers. “We are highly unionised. “We know the legislation that protects us, so if he contravenes the legislation then unfortunately he is not going to get co-operation from us.”
Dimbaza said unions had a role to play and it was “quite understandable what informs their views”.
“The mayor spoke from an informed position because the sabotage allegations are based on preliminary investigations which have established that underhandedness was at play,” Dimbaza said.
‘‘ This is confirmation of our fears of sabotage by workers who are staying away in protest against the application of council’s overtime policy NELSON MANDELA BY MAYOR ATHOL TROLLIP