Durban — The eThekwini sewerage crisis has prompted the DA to issue an ultimatum to the ANC-run municipality to fix the problem, or else leave office.
A resident of Bingham Place, Bluff, said the sewerage problem has continued over the year.
“The sewerage system erupts like Mount Vesuvius, spewing hundreds of litres of raw sewage down the road, leaving in its path a trail of human excrement and toilet paper,” he said.
He said residents had to drive over this to get to their properties. One neighbour, unfortunate to be at the lowest point in the road, said his front lawn had become a swamp.
Recently the KwaZulu-Natal Environmental Affairs Department delivered a unanimous statement demanding eThekwini Municipality officials fix the sewerage problem because it posed a health hazard to the city’s residents, and also to the environment.
DA spokesperson Heinz de Boer said in a statement he sent to the media that the message is just one of several strong ones delivered to city officials during a multiparty oversight inspection of the Ohlanga and Northern wastewater treatment facilities on Wednesday.
De Boer said, “Further measures by the portfolio committee include a high-level task team consisting of national, provincial and eThekwini officials to address progress on sewer repairs and to help untangle the web of red tape at procurement and bid adjudication stages within the city.”
According to him, the oversight has highlighted the blatant neglect of duty the ANC-run council has perpetrated on society, year after year.
“Investigations have also revealed how eThekwini’s council has consistently underfunded its own Water and Sanitation unit – leaving it powerless to upgrade or even maintain the sewer network,” De Boer said.
In most instances, the unit received well below R500 million a year. This is in stark contrast to the DA-led City of Cape Town, which is not facing a crisis of this magnitude, which has recently embarked on an annual R2.6 billion refurbishment campaign.
Water and Sanitation head Ednick Msweli said: “We were in trouble even before the floods”, confirming all assertions of the city’s culpability.
“This ongoing underspending by the council has crippled the city, coupled with an already shaky economy, and it’s apparent eThekwini is facing a dismal December holiday season,” said De Boer.
The DA said the oversight also showed how more than 30 million litres of raw untreated sewage is being diverted into the uMngeni River, as the treatment works remain inoperable since the floods. The same applies to the Ohlanga works, where another 30 million litres reach the uMhlanga catchment each day.
“Three tranches of funding totalling R160m are needed to fix the Northern works, neatly drowning out mayor Mxolisi Kaunda’s arguments of beaches being ready by December.
“Alarmingly, there is still no indication of where eThekwini will find the R650m needed to get basic water and sewerage operations on track. The province has now also established that 56 sewer pump stations continue to directly affect the swimming beaches.
“The Mahatma Gandhi Station – responsible for some of the worst harbour pollution – continues to operate on two pumps instead of five,” the DA asserted.
De Boer said, “The DA welcomes the robust stance taken by the Environmental Affairs portfolio committee, which has also accepted a DA resolution to urgently find and prosecute businesses who continue to discharge effluent into the sewer system.
“Insiders believe it was this industrial effluent that was responsible for the recent massive fish deaths in the uMngeni River estuary, with more evidence of chemical discharges being noted in the Pinetown area this week.
“The DA will continue to fight for the rights of eThekwini’s residents to have access to clean water, whether it be in their taps or along KZN’s natural waterways and ocean … and an overall cleaner environment at large,” De Boer said.