North West council's failure to pay up leaves residents 'facing shortages and infrastructure decay'

27 May 2021 - 07:00
By shonisani tshikalange AND Shonisani Tshikalange
In its notice to employees, Sedibeng Water states that the municipalities simply refuse to pay for the services and water supply provided by Sedibeng Water.
Image: Gallo Images/iStock In its notice to employees, Sedibeng Water states that the municipalities simply refuse to pay for the services and water supply provided by Sedibeng Water.

Water authority Sedibeng Water has taken aim at a North West district municipality, saying it was suspending all “operations and maintenance services” over unpaid bills.

It is a suspension, the Freedom Front Plus said, that leaves residents of Mahikeng and Lichtenburg, among others, facing the risk of water shortages and an even “further decay of infrastructure”.

In a letter on Tuesday to its employees in the Mahikeng area — titled “Non-payment and suspension of operation and maintenance services in Ngaka Modiri Molema district municipality” — Sedibeng confirmed its actions. The suspension kicks in from June 1, the letter reads.

While the FF+ shared the letter with TimesLIVE, we have independently verified its authenticity.

Sedibeng Water said the suspension came after “unproductive oral and written engagements” with the district council over its “ever-growing debt for the operations and maintenance service by Sedibeng Water”.

“Sedibeng Water has taken a firm decision to suspend all the operations and maintenance services to the municipality until the district municipality changes their posture on their refusal to pay for the aforementioned services. Sedibeng Water cannot continue to offer services for free at the detriment of its financial health.

“You are therefore directed to suspend all operations and maintenance services at Lehurutshe, Mahikeng and Ratlou local municipalities, as of 1 June 2021. Further suspension of services for bulk water supply must be effected at Ditsobotla local municipality’s Itsoseng plant, effective from 1 July 2021,” read the notice.

Attempts to get comment from the municipality on Wednesday night were unsuccessful.

FF+ MP and party spokesperson Michal Groenewald said the affected areas comprised nearly half of the North West province.

“The communities in question are already bearing the brunt of mismanagement and corruption in these ANC-controlled municipalities. Frequent interruptions in water and power supply, caused by municipalities' non-payment, are the order of the day.

“Businesses are suffering great losses, and interruptions in the water supply pose a health risk to residents and undermine the national fight against Covid-19. An emphasis on hygiene is the most powerful and effective weapon in the fight against the pandemic,” he said.

Groenewald said it had become evident that North West is one of the most dilapidated provinces, as evidenced by recent oversight visit by the parliamentary committee on Cogta.

The North West has been placed under administration and under the control of the national government since 2018. In February, that administration period was extended by another three months.

Groenewald said the FF+ had already brought the issue to the attention of the parliamentary portfolio committee on Cogta.

He said the party had also approached the deputy Cogta minister Obed Bapela and requested interventions at the mismanaged municipalities.