Emfuleni Municipality bankruptcy leads to water shutdown
The bankruptcy of the Emfuleni Municipality has led to Rand Water shutting down the water supply in various areas after the municipality paid only R164-million of its R485-million historical debt owed to the water supplier.
Emfuleni‚ which is in Gauteng's Sedibeng District‚ has failed to pay in full a two-year historical debt owed to Rand Water – paying only R147-million to the water authority on December 11‚ instead of R200-million‚ and paying an additional R17-million on Monday through the intervention of Gauteng Premier David Makhura‚ the municipality's mayor claimed.
"I don't think we have sufficient money to sustain the account due to a number of factors. One is that we are losing too much water because of the aging infrastructure and leakages. Two‚ because we have many people who are not paying for water and we have to sort that out and with the little money that we have‚ we should have a discipline to prioritise which is something we were not been doing and need to [start] focusing on‚" Jacob Khawe‚ Emfuleni mayor said.
His remarks follow the water supplier reducing water in various areas after the African National Congress-run municipality was unable to meet Friday's deadline to pay about 25% (R50-million) of the money owed to Rand Water.
"Equally we find it a bit harsh that somebody who hasn’t been paying and suddenly out of R200-million [owed] has paid R177-million‚ such a harsh decision is taken‚ not that we shouldn't be punished because if you don’t punish us we are not going to pay‚" added Khawe.
Makhura was requested to intervene in the municipality's problem and‚ as a result‚ assisted the cash-strapped Emfuleni with R17 million to pay Rand Water. The mayor said Makhura's intervention restored hope for the municipality and residents after technicians were ordered to increase the water supply in affected areas.
"We then requested an intervention of the premier and I did so because I have been taken from pillar to post - firstly by my officials and secondly by Rand Water. The problem I have is that the agreement that I signed clearly states that if one party dishonours the agreement‚ the senior leaders of each institution will be engaged. So if Rand Water was dissatisfied by the fact that Emfuleni [Municipality] did not pay according to the agreement‚ myself and the chairperson [of Rand Water] should have been called into a meeting and be made aware that 'now we are deciding to shut down water'‚" said Khawe‚ adding that he was not consulted.
He said on Monday morning‚ residents of Emfuleni started to experience a drop in the water pressure but he was only made aware about this in the afternoon and that's when he consulted Rand Water and was informed that they had not received the agreed payment.
"I enquired with the city manager as to why we didn’t pay because on January 3 I issued an instruction that Rand Water must be paid according to the agreement. So there's one problem of people in my institution who don’t respect decisions we have made and it's something I am going to deal with when I get to Emfuleni‚" the mayor said.
Emfuleni Municipality had an agreement with Rand Water from November 1 to pay about R200-million over a period of two months but short paid by about R50-million. Subsequently‚ water restrictions were imposed.
Water tankers have been dispatched since Friday to different affected areas.
According to mayoral spokesperson Lebo Mofokeng‚ about 250 households have been affected by water restrictions.
In November‚ the water supplier officially announced it was to implement a 60% water restriction which adversely affected hospitals in the areas as they were not given prior notice.
After an intervention by Gauteng MEC for co-operative governance and traditional affairs (Cogta) Paul Mashatile in December last year‚ the 60% water restriction was revoked when Emfuleni promised to pay back money owed to Rand Water.
Residents of Palm Spring‚ Sharpeville‚ Tshepong‚ Evaton‚ Vaal Oewer‚ Vanderbijlpark and Debonair Park are areas which have been affected by the water restrictions.
Rand Water was not immediately available for comment.