News / South Africa / Government

Tarina Coetzee
3 minute read
21 Jun 2020
1:26 pm

Mbombela owes millions for water while domestic bills skyrocket

Tarina Coetzee

Residents pay thousands in water bills, while a quarter of the municipal water supply is lost due to wastage

Mbombela Water

The local municipality owes the national Department of Water and Sanitation millions for water, and a quarter of the water it bought within the past financial year was lost.

To add insult to injury, scores of Lowvelders have complained about inflated water bills over the past few months, Lowvelder Reports.

According to Charmaine Truter, a resident of West Acres, her bill used to be between R300 and R500.

“The month before last I received an account of just over R1 100. I called the municipality and was advised to only pay the amount that I normally pay.

The next month I received an account with interest on the amount that I did not pay. I paid the amount, with the expectation that I would have a credit on this month’s account.

This month I received an account of R2 800. We do not water our garden, we don’t have a swimming pool, we are only three people in the house and we do washing only twice a week. I am furious,” she said.

Morney Viljoen, a resident of Ext 11, Steiltes, said his bill has doubled over the past three months.

“Before March, we paid around R500 per month. We now pay more than a R1 000. We are still doing what we have always done. Nothing has changed that might influence our water consumption,” he said.

According to Trudie Grovè-Morgan, Democratic Alliance spokesperson on cooperative governance and traditional affairs, many Mbombela residents have received high water bills.

“I often notice that water meters are not working, but residents are billed crazy amounts. It shows that meter readers are not doing their jobs properly,” she said.

On the other hand, Grovè-Morgan added, five Mpumalanga municipalities owe service providers more than R1 billion for water.

“For years, many of the province’s 21 municipalities have been reprimanded for lacking sound financial management, and some have been facing violent service delivery protests and threats to cut services.”

Mpumalanga’s capital, the City of Mbombela, owes the Department of Water and Sanitation R140 million and lost 25,2 per cent of the water it bought within the last financial year.

Illegal water connections are also a major factor when it comes to water losses, Grovè-Morgan said.

“Water leaks are also not attended to immediately.” According to Werner Weber, FF+ leader in Mpumalanga, the 25,2 per cent loss of water is largely the result of the local authority deliberately not fixing pipes so that tenderpreneurs can be appointed to transport water in tanks to specific townships.

Procurement procedures are not followed and contract amounts are inflated. Weber is also of the opinion that illegal connections are not acted against because the ANC is scared of losing votes.

“In my opinion, municipalities are all bankrupt. There are too many officials earning too much money. When they do their budgets, they do it on the basis of an estimated income. When that income is not realised, they pay salaries instead of paying their suppliers,” he said.

According to Mbombela municipality spokesperson, Joseph Ngala, it will be unable to give a detailed response on this matter for now.

“Part of the reason is that with the Covid-19 coronavirus regulations, there has been a need to increase water supply to ensure that communities are able to comply with hygiene imperatives. The Department of Water and Sanitation also had to make resources available to ensure that this happens.

“With regard to the allegations by the FF+, they remain allegations until some proof is provided. It is very unfortunate that they even suggested that. But we also challenge the FF+ to back up its claims,” he said.