Chatsworth Water Crisis- an avoidable disaster

Issued by Cllr Nicole Graham – DA eThekwini Caucus Leader
11 Jan 2021 in Press Statements

The Democratic Alliance is dismayed at the state that the eThekwini Municipality have plunged the city into. This is a result of the complete failure of the Northdene 3 pump station which services 8 eThekwini water reservoirs.

This has left large parts of the South of Durban, including Chatsworth and surrounding areas, Queensburgh and parts of Marianridge without water.

The reality is that this was an avoidable disaster for many reasons.

Over the past few years, DA Councillors have been convening regular meetings with eThekwini Water and Sanitation officials to try and address the city’s growing water issues. It has been clear that many pump stations were not in a good state and that imminent failure was possible at a number of sites.

Despite this, it is clear that maintenance was not done in due course and that spares or replacements were not procured.

A tender notice was put out to provide electrical repairs to two of the three pumps at Northdene in September 2020. The DA have been informed that this was all completed by 21 October with the intention of using urgent procurement regulations to complete the work. Apparently, against the advice of legal, finance and water and sanitation employees, the accounting officer refused to sign this off.

Why wasn’t this done, when the gravity of the situation was surely clear?

This was during the period when Sipho Nzuza had returned to work, so it is not entirely clear which “accounting officer” was responsible. The municipality must make this publicly known.

It was thus forced to follow a normal, lengthy tender process and eventually the pump station completely failed. 

This in addition to continuous and lengthy outages in the Tongaat and Verulam areas, which stretches relief capacity. 

Auxiliary services that should be available to assist the public have also been limited. The sachet plant- which fills eight litre sachets quickly and easily- is again not working. Cash flow issues mean that the ability of the municipality to procure additional tankers and JoJo tanks is limited. 

The net result is entirely avoidable humanitarian crisis- hundreds of thousands of vulnerable people without water in a declared Covid-19 hotspot zone. 

Whilst certain municipal officials have been helpful and amenable, enough is enough when it comes to eThekwini’s flailing Water Department. 

Those responsible for this mess must be named, charged and dismissed. Nothing will change unless accountability is enforced.