Water constraints render Polokwane’s metro dreams a mirage
R18 billion is needed to address the problems.
POLOKWANE, SOUTH AFRICA -20 March 2010: View of city skyline and CBD of Polokwane. Polokwane meaning “Place of Safety”, is a city in the Polokwane Local Municipality and the capital of the Limpopo province, South Africa. Polokwane is a major urban centre, the biggest and most important north of Gauteng. (Photo by Gallo Images/Stuart Fox)
Plans by Polokwane municipality in Limpopo to turn the provincial capital into a metro have been stymied by acute water challenges.
Limpopo is said to need a whopping R18 billion to address its provincial water problems, which also affect the lead city. The city, which is an economic hub and the province’s capital, has embarked on a concerted effort to turn itself into a metro. But it seems the plan could remain a mere mirage.
First, water supplies, a human basic need, must be restored to the areas under the council’s control. The Citizen can reveal that Polokwane has been without sufficient water supply for nearly three weeks. This has seen several communities on the city’s outskirts and various political groupings threatening to turn the city into a battlefield in order to get government’s attention.
Polokwane has a population of nearly 1.2 million and the province has about 5.8 million – a majority of whom depend on government for water provision.
Infrastructure and service delivery compromised
Speaking during a media briefing at the Peter Mokaba Stadium in Polokwane yesterday, the municipality’s executive mayor, John Mpe, who doubles up as ANC Peter Mokaba region’s chair, said water problems were attributed to dips in the power supply and subsequent tripping of water supply at both the Ebenezer and the Olifantspoort water schemes.
These challenges, according to Mpe, were worsened by mechanical failures at the pump stations of Olifantspoort – leaving major parts of the city without water for weeks.
“The failure by Lepelle Northern Water to honour its contractual obligation is at the core of our problems,” said Mpe.
“For the past six months, the pumps at Lepelle have been taken for repairs and were not returned. The utility was only pumping 30% of the water required to be pumped into Polokwane, and that is disturbing,” Mpe said.
“Infrastructure and service delivery were compromised. This in turn impacted negatively on the community and the business fraternity alike,” Mpe said.
“Some of the damages this caused are due to budgetry constraints on repairs and maintenance; the impact of natural causes; and extended delays by service providers responding to emergencies,” Mphe told the media.
He said the plan was to arrest the situation through making resources immediately available for repairs and maintenance. Mpe promised the people of Polokwane that he understood fully that water is life and told them he will not fail to restore clean, running water to Polokwane.
Speaking on the sidelines of the same briefing, newly appointed chief executive officer of Lepelle Northern Water Cornelius Ruiters said the water challenges were worsened by alleged corruption and negligence.
He said Lepelle, a state-owned water utility responsible for bulk water supply, was catering for more than three million people on daily basis. R18 billion was needed to address the problems.