KwaZulu-Natal cabinet says decision to take over Uthukela Water in 'best interest of poor people'

Canaan Mdletshe

Canaan Mdletshe

A legal battle is looming between the KwaZulu-Natal government and the three municipalities that run the embattled Uthukela Water after the provincial cabinet resolved last week to take over the running of the water entity.

The decision has left the three municipalities - Umzinyathi and Amajuba district municipalities and Newcastle local municipality - livid.

They said they will not let the matter go unchallenged.

A fuming Amajuba district mayor, Mkhulu Mlangeni, said yesterday during a tense meeting held in Dundee that they would take a legal route against Mike Mabuyakhulu, the KwaZulu-Natal housing MEC "if need be".

He said they were not satisfied with Mabuyakhulu's approach to the matter.

"He is partly right to say that people were complaining about the lack of water supply.

"But at the same time he is not that correct because we had come up with some turn-around strategies on this matter," said Mlangeni.

He said they were also not satisfied with Mabuyakhulu's announcement that he was taking over their 100percent shareholding in Uthukela Water as of last Wednesday.

"Since his announcement that he was taking over, there has not been any manpower or financial aid or a team of people with expertise in the industry brought forward," Mlangeni said.

"As shareholder municipalities we are still providing water to our people, so what is he doing?"

Mlangeni said the moment complaints arose from the people they had launched their own investigations and some board members were suspended.

This showed their capabilities and willingness to deliver water services, but has not been taken into account by Mabuyakhulu, he said.

"Our legal advisers are looking into the matter and they will advise us of the next step to take once they are done with studying the decision," Mlangeni said.

"But we will not take it lying down," he said.

On Monday, Mabuyakhulu announced that he was taking over the running of Uthukela Water because the three municipalities had failed dismally in their obligation to provide basic water and sanitation services to their communities.

He also said that his department had received a memorandum from residents, rate payers, workers, businesses, churches and non-government organisations protesting against exorbitant water tariffs and lack of service delivery.

Mabuyakhulu's spokesman, Lennox Mabaso, said the three municipalities can go to court if they want to, but maintained that they still stood by their decision.

"The entity has been limping from one disaster to another and we couldn't wait," he said.

"The decision taken was rational and in the best interest of the poor people.

"The issue had been around for far too long and we had to act," said Mabaso.