Durban mayor mum on beach dip challenge but ‘not taking public for a ride’ over safety, says city

Suthentira Govender Senior reporter
The eThekwini municipality says it is committed to ensuring Durban will be ready to welcome visitors to all its beaches this festive season. Stock photo.
The eThekwini municipality says it is committed to ensuring Durban will be ready to welcome visitors to all its beaches this festive season. Stock photo.
Image: 123rf/Leon Swart

The eThekwini municipality is adamant Durban will be ready for the festive season, saying it is working to ensure all beaches will be open for the summer holiday.

On Tuesday ActionSA in KwaZulu-Natal accused Durban mayor Mxolisi Kaunda of misleading the public about the “true state” of the Ohlange sewage pump station which has seen Umhlanga Beach closed for long periods because of sewage pollution.

Kaunda recently said the opening of Umhlanga beaches was imminent owing to satisfactory water quality readings and the long-awaited functionality of the Ohlange pump station.

The DA stepped into the fray, challenging Kaunda to take a dip in water at the sewage-polluted Umhlanga main beach after saying beaches would be open on December 1. The city was asked by TimesLIVE whether the mayor would step up to the challenge, but did not respond.

Last week the city announced the pump station north of the city had been commissioned and the overflow into the Ohlanga River had stopped. However, ActionSA chair in KwaZulu-Natal Zwakele Mncwango said a site visit on Monday showed while the pump station had been fixed “it is not operational as the reticulation system around the pump station remains broken”.

Municipal spokesperson Msawakhe Mayisela told TimesLIVE it was misleading of ActionSA to suggest Kaunda “is taking the public for a ride”.

“It is a fact that several consecutive test results of our water have pointed out the level of E coli is at acceptable standards at most of our beaches. Hence we have constantly been informing the public which beaches are safe to use. This has been as a result of the progress we are making in repairing the infrastructure that was damaged.

“We are working towards ensuring all beaches are open for the public to enjoy this festive season.”

Mayisela said at no stage had Kaunda suggested “the entire infrastructure has been repaired as it is a work in progress”.

“We are appealing to all our stakeholders to bear with us as damage to our infrastructure was a consequence of the disaster everyone is fully aware of. After the calamity, the city never folded its arms. Instead it commenced with repair work to get roads, water, sanitation and electricity infrastructure back on track.”

He said Kaunda and members of the city’s executive committee would shed light on new developments regarding repair work “and demonstrate our city is ready to receive multitudes of tourists this festive season”.

Mayisela did not comment on why the city cancelled the public engagement on beach safety due to be held on Tuesday.

He said a split sampling exercise of several Durban beaches with water treatment service Talbot showed their water quality results were comparable.

“Beaches are very tricky and have a myriad of changing environments like weather (currents, winds, and possible localised contamination) which will have an impact on  results. 

“The E coli test requires an incubation period (18 to 24 hours) before results become available. The affected beaches were resampled on November 23 and the results were within range.

“The regular (weekly) sampling exercises assist in trending the results to highlight ongoing persistent issues. So far the trend for the Durban central beaches has been fine. This excludes the closed beaches near Umgeni River.”

Mayisela said work “is at an advanced stage to finalise repair work to the entire sewerage infrastructure responsible for contaminating Umhlanga beaches.

“The Ohlange pump station has been repaired. As a result an announcement will be made soon about when these beaches will open.”


Support independent journalism by subscribing to the Sunday Times. Just R20 for the first month.

Would you like to comment on this article?
Register (it's quick and free) or sign in now.

Speech Bubbles

Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.