Sunday Times

The court has spoken: let the people run water

- By NOMAHLUBI SONJICA

It took a court battle and the threat of imprisonme­nt for the municipal manager, but now the walk to collect water has become a joyful jaunt for residents of a North West town. Among those happily queueing for water this week after a 5km walk through Koster was Sello Ntswang, who was pushing a wheelbarro­w full of containers.

“I hope one day to have the water come to my house, but we are so happy to have clean water to drink now,” he said.

In December, residents were handed the running of the town’s water and sewerage works by the high court in Mahikeng after years of struggle. Even when the taps did occasional­ly flow, the water was not fit for human consumptio­n. Now, when people fill their containers, they can thank the Kgetlengri­vier Concerned Residents organisati­on for ensuring it is safe to drink.

The court made its order after Kgetlengri­vier municipali­ty failed to comply with a December ruling giving it until January 7 to rectify the town’s water and sewerage problems. Municipal manager Joseph Mogale is due back in court on May 11 to give reasons why he should not be jailed for up to 90 days on a contempt of court charge for failing to fix the problem.

He referred all further questions to the provincial department of co-operative governance & traditiona­l affairs.

Carel van Heerden of the residents’ group said: “We’ve already spent R15.8m to fix all the pumps and the burnt electric motors and to clean the sludged dams.”

They have since been reimbursed by the provincial government.

“We are now using a dual system which runs using two pumps and two motors per station,” Van Heerden said. “The municipali­ty was running on one pump per station. You cannot do that. When there was a broken motor, the whole system would stand still and you could not pump water anywhere for a couple of days or weeks.

“The municipali­ty built a sewerage system costing R144m which only operated for two weeks. The operators were not capable to run it and they abandoned it. We took over that plant and it is now operating like a RollsRoyce.”

The court also directed Kgetlengri­vier municipali­ty to appoint a service provider to run the plants, but that solution was shortlived and on March 24 the residents took over again.

Van Heerden said they were keen to go into a partnershi­p with the government as they had the expertise and people to run the plants. “All we want is to provide clean water and sanitation to the people,” he said.

Israel Matsile, from Reagile township, said he was grateful for “small” developmen­ts such as receiving clean drinking water, but breathing fresh air seems to be a distant dream for him and the community of Koster as most still struggle with sewage spills.

“Most of the manholes in Extension 4 are clogged by rubbish, which causes the sewage to spill over to the streets and houses,”

he said. When the Sunday Times visited the area, some residents had dug trenches for sewage to flow from their blocked toilets to the streets.

Traditiona­l healer Frida Ditswane is also dependent on the goodwill of neighbours who share their water with her during the week, and on weekends she repays the

favour by hiring a bakkie to transport water back. “I am struggling for over 10 years to have running water, now things are better,” she said.

An AfriForum audit last month of local government in the North West revealed that Kgetlengri­vier municipali­ty’s water delivery had deteriorat­ed over the years and only

27.7% of households had piped water inside their dwellings, compared with close to 35% in 2011.

Morné Mostert, head of local government affairs at AfriForum, said: “No community can function properly without water services delivery. The constituti­on guarantees water services delivery to each individual. We’ve seen the municipali­ty struggling to deliver this in terms of the mandate of the constituti­on. We want to make sure that these services are being kept up and implemente­d correctly.”

The North West co-operative governance & traditiona­l affairs department did not respond to queries from the Sunday Times.

 ?? Pictures: Sebabatso Mosamo ?? Koster community leader Israel Matsile says the community of Koster still struggles with sewage spills. Residents have been handed the running of the town’s water and sewerage works by the high court in Mahikeng after years of service delivery failure by the Kgetlengri­vier municipali­ty.
Pictures: Sebabatso Mosamo Koster community leader Israel Matsile says the community of Koster still struggles with sewage spills. Residents have been handed the running of the town’s water and sewerage works by the high court in Mahikeng after years of service delivery failure by the Kgetlengri­vier municipali­ty.
 ??  ?? Before, even when the taps did occasional­ly flow, the water was not fit for consumptio­n. Now the Kgetlengri­vier Concerned Residents organisati­on ensures it is safe to drink.
Before, even when the taps did occasional­ly flow, the water was not fit for consumptio­n. Now the Kgetlengri­vier Concerned Residents organisati­on ensures it is safe to drink.
 ??  ?? AfriForum’s Morné Mostert says the organisati­on wants to ensure that water services delivery is kept up.
AfriForum’s Morné Mostert says the organisati­on wants to ensure that water services delivery is kept up.
 ??  ?? A man and his child return home after collecting water in Koster in North West.
A man and his child return home after collecting water in Koster in North West.

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