Council offices set on fire over water dispute

Alfred Moselakgomo

Frustration over water shortages took a nasty turn when angry residents set a municipal office alight yesterday.

Hundreds of Phola residents near Ogies on the outskirts of eMalahleni (Witbank) embarked on an impromptu march in protest against lack of water, which they said has been going on for nearly a year.

Joel Mabena, one of the protesters, said residents had on several occasions informed the municipality about water disconnections, but nothing came of it.

"Water taps in our area run dry every day and the municipality is not willing to help," said Mabena.

He said the water shortages created problems for households and schools in the area because toilets could not be flushed.

Yesterday, the area's major roads were barricaded, with protesters preventing people from going to work or schools.

Lina Malatjie, eMalahleni municipal executive mayor, could not estimate the extent of the damages caused to the municipal buildings.

However, she pointed out that all their computers, fax machines and other important materials estimated at about R100000 were destroyed in the raging fire.

She said the cause of the water shortages in Phola was the result of a burst pipe.

"It's been only three weeks since the area experienced water shortages because a Clewer-Ogies pipeline, which supplies the area with water, has burst," she said.

Malatjie said the pipe had been repaired and asked residents to calm down as their water supply would resume soon.

Deputy Minister of Home Affairs Mulusi Gigaba was the mediator between the community and the municipality.

Police spokesperson Superintendent Abie Khoabane said no arrests have been made yet. He saidpolice were investigating cases of public violence and damage to property.