Councillors slam Nelson Mandela Bay's water leaks crisis

'I fear that we are not taking this seriously'

Only nine out of more than 9,000 water leaks were repaired by the municipality in Nelson Mandela Bay’s poor households in July.
This, as a devastating drought has seen the metro’s supply dam levels plummet to just 18.4% capacity.
A report presented at the infrastructure and engineering committee meeting on Friday said the municipality had 9,781 water leaks to fix by August.
They included 513 new leaks from complaints listed under the Assistance to the Poor Programme (ATTP,) which the municipality is mandated to fix even though the leaks are in households.
The municipality had 43 plumbers employed via contract appointments to work on leaks for poor households.
Meanwhile, 34 plumbers employed full-time by the metro to fix general leaks and burst pipes repaired only 1,045 out of 6,458 leaks and burst pipes in July.
By August, there were about 6,685 outstanding repairs for general leaks and pipe bursts.
Water distribution director Joseph Tsatsire said on Friday that the backlog could be attributed to work on the leaks being halted due to contract complications with consultants.
The contracts of consultants in the infrastructure and engineering department were in limbo after the National Treasury and independent legal opinion found the appointments of the consultants to be irregular due to the council’s failure to comply with the Municipal Financial Management Act when it extended the contracts in 2014.
Tsatsire said the leaks of poor households were dealt with through consulting engineers.
He said the contracts issue had been dealt with on Thursday and the report had subsequently been withdrawn from the committee.
“No action was happening in July,” he said at the meeting.
“The programme was stopped on June 30 because of contractual issues.
“We were trying to regularise that problem. It has since been regularised.”
On Tuesday, water and sanitation director Barry Martin said this had been exacerbated by the semi-qualified plumbers in the municipality’s employ.
“We are nowhere where we would like to be,” he said.
“One of our problems is that we don’t have some of the resources we need, such as staff vehicles.”
Martin said the ATTP leaks programme dealt with private household leaks.
“Another problem is that the plumbers we have are semi-skilled – they are not fully qualified to attend to leaks in private households.
“We have a plan to deal with water leaks.
“[But] our ability to deliver on our plan is hindered by many factors.”
Martin said leaks in residents’ homes were not the municipality’s function, but because the residents fell within the ATTP programme the city undertook to repair the leaks.
Friday’s report says the metro does not have any generators and it needs at least four.
The department also has no water tanker vehicle and it needs three.
It needs about R45m to buy equipment, including vehicles.
However, R10m has been set aside for vehicles in the 2018/2019 financial year.
Councillors in the committee slammed the presentation by Martin, as the city’s drought intervention did not include leak repairs.
DA councillor Charles Garai said he was disappointed there was no plan to combat leaks.
“I fear that we are not taking this seriously,” he said.
“I understand that the department is pushing for an increased water supply, and that is necessary in the long term, but the loss factor has increased.
“Something is wrong here.
“This is just not acceptable.
“I hear words are being said but we have between 15,000 and 16,000 leaks outstanding.”
EFF councillor Lukhanyo Mrara said residents had reached out to him as they had not received any joy after lodging complaints.
“A leak was reported in June and it’s still pouring today.
“How can it be that we have 43 plumbers but only nine leaks were repaired in July?
“Does that mean about two or three plumbers are working on one leak?”
“Someone is not taking this matter seriously.”
ANC councillor Bongo Nombiba also said leaks in Kwazakhele were not being attended to.
“There is a leak in my area. We have reported this but nothing is happening,” he said.
AIC councillor Thsonono Buyeye said the water-saving efforts were not yielding the desired outcome...

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