Councillor gets free water, but residents have to pay her husband

Chris Hani residents up in arms over water

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Photo of tractor and trailer with wster barrels.
Residents of Ngcobo complain that they have to pay the councillor’s husband to fetch their water. Photo: Manqulo Nyakombi

Residents of Ngcobo in the Eastern Cape say their local councillor is supplied with water by a Chris Hani District Municipality truck, while they have to pay the councillor’s husband to fetch water for them from the river.

Standpipe taps were installed by the municipality in Emadladleni and Mtebese in Ngcobo in 2013, but residents say these have never worked.

Instead, residents have to fetch water from a dirty river nearby, or pay the local councillor’s husband to fetch water for them from the Mgwali River, several kilometres away.

“We are using the same water with pigs and cows. Not so long ago a dead body was found in the river we are using. We have to go to the other river which is five kilometres from here. And the water we are using is not clean. We can’t just drink it, we have to boil it first,” said resident Akhona Plaatjie.

GroundUp visited the area after Plaatjie posted on Facebook that he had spent his morning fetching water from the river, and he wished that he lived close to municipal officials so that he, too, could get clean water delivered by truck to his home.

According to Plaatjie and other residents, this has been happening for some time.

Plaatjie said that last week residents organised a meeting to discuss water. He was sent by the residents to the house of ward councillor Nobuntu Mgidi to ask for water for the whole community. Mgidi promised to deliver water and told residents to prepare big drums. But no water was delivered.

Plaatjie said he had to hire a bakkie or a tractor to fetch water from the river, at a cost of R250 a load.

Another community member who only identified himself as Dlamini, because, he said, he was a well known ANC member and would be “in trouble” if he gave his full name, told GroundUp that water had been a problem in the municipality “for a very long time”.

“There are people who pay more than R500 just to get water and that water is not even clean,” said Dlamini. “I’m not personally affected, but my family lives here and they also struggle to get clean water.”

GroundUp met a woman with her two children, aged three and six, fetching water from the river in which residents had said a dead body was found.

“At least it happened a few days ago, and we are just hoping that the water is now clean. I told my children we will first boil it before we drink it, that’s all we can do,” she said. She asked not to be named for fear of victimisation.

“From here to Mgwali river is almost 6 km and that is very far to walk with my children, carrying buckets full of water,” she said. She could not afford to hire a tractor for R250 to get water from the Mgwali river.

She also said she often saw a truck delivering water to business people in her area and also to Mgidi’s house.

Councillor denies the allegations

Mgidi denied that the municipality only provided water to officials or friends of officials. She said the water problem dated from 2010, before she was a councillor.

“When I took over as a ward councillor last November after we had by-elections, I informed the municipality that our taps are not working. We are busy fixing that. People will receive water,” said Mgidi.

She confirmed that the tractor belonged to her husband.

“The tractor is doing its job, helping the community, and they know that they have to hire it for R250,” she said.

“We always give people water when they asked, but for the past two weeks we didn’t have water. The Chris Hani Municipality told me that they stopped providing water until further notice.”

Mgidi is an ANC councillor. She said she was not standing for re-election.

Chris Hani Municipality spokesperson Lonwabo Kowa also denied the allegations.

He said it was false that special attention was given to those close to municipal officials and any person with such information must come forward and report it.

Kowa admitted problems with the standpipe taps due to a scarcity of groundwater. He said R4 million had been set aside to solve the water problem. “A contractor has been appointed and is already on site since last month.”

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TOPICS:  Government Housing Water

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