Just four Amatola Water employees are keeping drinking water flowing to large parts of the province.
Water supply is threatened in Buffalo City Metro (BCM)‚ Mthatha‚ Bhisho‚ Grahamstown‚ Alice‚ Port Alfred and Stutterheim‚ and even St Albans Prison in Port Elizabeth.
The supply is hanging by a thread with hundreds of South African Municipal Workers Union (Samwu) workers out on an unprotected strike.
Eleven of the board’s treatment plants were being run o Friday morning by only four senior technical employees. The plants supply bulk drinking water to an area covering 45794km²‚ which includes Amatola district‚ 40% of BCM‚ and part of the Chris Hani district.
On Thursday night‚ Samwu’s regional chairman Victor Potolo said: “If workers are on strike this weekend‚ there will be no water.”
A weary and distressed Amatola Water CEO Lefadi Makibinyane said on Thursday night that the operators were exhausted.
The plants normally supply 110megalitres a day‚ but after more than 368 workers aligned to Samwu withdrew their labour earlier this week‚ supply is down by about almost half‚ at 55 to 60 megalitres‚ said Makibinyane. A megalitre is 1-million litres.
The strike is about politics and not about pay or work conditions‚ explained Makibinyane‚ who was desperately awaiting private operators to step in on Friday and provide operational support to the plants.
The four stalwarts keeping the water flowing have been on their own since Wednesday‚ when the wildcat strike hit.
On Thursday‚ BCM spokesman Sibusiso Cindi announced that water had run out in an area covering the inland half of BCM from Berlin‚ including the Bhisho provincial government.
Tankers were being rolled out.
At the heart of the crisis is a demand from Samwu to speak to Minister of Water and Sanitation Nomvula Mokonyane about its demand for the sacking of Amatola board chairwoman Nokulunga Mnqetha‚ whom workers accuse of being involved in fraud.