Theft of borehole equipment, vandalism and illegal water connections have left taps dry for 10 years. Municipality blames residents.

Residents of the sprawling villages around Tzaneen in Limpopo are at loggerheads with the Mopani district municipality about what has caused their 10-year long water crisis.

Theft of borehole equipment, vandalism and illegal water connections have left taps dry… but the municipality blames the residents and they in turn blame the municipality.

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At an imbizo held at the weekend, tempers flared. Resident and prominent businessman Black Lammatau Letsoalo told officials: “You are here accusing us of vandalism and for illegal connections, but your officials and service providers are equally to blame.

They steal the borehole equipment and re-use them on the next projects.” Letsoalo accused the municipality of working at a snail’s pace to restore water.

He said every year there are projects in the area but they fail to produce a single drop of water.

“We have two big dams here, which are currently overflowing. We are appealing to you (the municipality) to put money aside and appoint a reputable company to draw purified water from these dams to the villages.

“We want bulk water projects here and reticulation will come later. How do you start with reticulation when there is no bulk water?” asked Letsoalo.

Mayor Pule “Frelimo” Shayi, who is also ANC Norman Mashabane regional chair, pleaded for calm.

“We have heard your plight and we will promptly attend to them and ensure there is enough water for everyone,” he said.

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Shayi said the municipality was training 100 young people who would be “dispatched to your villages to solve all your water-related problems”.

He added: “They will fix water leakages, report illegal connections and ensure all those stealing our borehole equipment face the full might of the law.”

Shayi appealed to locals to jealously guard services brought to them by government. “All these water projects we bring to you are yours. If you steal or vandalise them, it will be you that suffer.”

The mayor also told the residents that Christmas was over.

“Today it must just sink in your heads. The popular Treasury rule that forced service providers to award 30% of work to local companies has been scrapped.

“The National Treasury has abolished it because it was fuelling instability and infighting between communities and contractors. Projects were hijacked by local people demanding 30%. Some demanded instant cash from contractors.

“This delayed the completion of the projects and an increase in crime statistics. So, from today you must know that our small, medium and micro enterprises (SMME) will bid for work like anyone else because there is no more 30% for them in a project,” he said to noises of disapproval from the residents.


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