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Unpaid debt leaves Emfuleni residents high and dry

tap lockedResidents of Emfuleni Local Municipality are facing water shortages after the municipality failed to settle a R400 million water bill owed to Rand Water. The debt owed dates over two years.

Rand Water took action to force the municipality to settle debts owed by restricting water supply to the municipal area by 40%, and increasing this to 60% from 12 November according to Water and Sanitation Minister Nomvula Mokonyane.

“This 60% water restriction resulted in a number of widespread water shortages, with the high-lying areas being worse affected. Among the affected areas were a number of schools, clinics and the Sebokeng Hospital.

“Rand Water has in the past held several engagements with the municipality in an attempt to conclude settlement terms for the debt. [However], all previous commitments to settle the outstanding debt have to date not been met,” Minister Mokonyane said.

Assisting public institutions

From 17 – 19 November, the department, together with Rand Water, conducted an assessment of the public institutions that urgently needed water supply.

On 18 November, Sebokeng Hospital was supplied with water tanks by Rand Water, and four clinics were also supplied with water to ensure that critical health services and functions are not negatively affected.

The Jojo tanks, including 4 x 5 000 litres, 2 x 10 000 litres and a further 2 x 10 000 litres were delivered on 20 November 2017.

The department is owed R7 billion by municipalities for bulk water services and unlike electricity, a total shutdown is not possible, as access to water is a right enshrined in the Constitution.

She said the debt has a huge impact on the department’s finances and delivery of new infrastructure.

In discussions to find lasting solution

“As a department, we are in discussions with the MEC of Cooperative Governance in Gauteng to finding lasting solutions to the incapacity at Emfuleni Municipality and we will further engage National Treasury on a need to redirect the equitable share of the municipality to directly service the debt in order to guarantee uninterrupted future water supply for residents of Emfuleni.

“The supply of water through the water tankers is costly and unsustainable. However, it is necessary to ensure that some water is supplied to the Sebokeng community. We will continue to supply water through these means until a permanent lasting solution is found,” Minister Mokonyane said

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