OR Tambo municipality experiences water problems

South Africa’s poorest municipality, the OR Tambo District Municipality in Transkei, could find itself lagging as much as 10 years behind the national target dates for water and sanitation, President Thabo Mbeki heard on Friday.

This was the warning in a report handed to him during a day-long visit to the Mbizana area during which he also addressed a community meeting and laid a wreath on the grave of the parents of African National Congress stalwart Oliver Tambo.

Addressing Mbeki, Eastern Cape Premier Nosimo Balindlela and local councillors at the Wild Coast Sun, OR Tambo mayor Zoleka Capa-Langa said her municipality and its seven local municipalities faced a major backlog in the provision of basic services.

According to a 56-page report handed to the president, though there has been a significant improvement in service delivery over the past 12 months, 51% of households do not yet have water and 58% –all of them rural — do not have sanitation.

The report said the national target for universal water provision was 2008.

”Looking at the current backlog, at least R1-billion is required to cover all households.

”Looking at the resource base at our disposal we can only eradicate [the] backlog by 2015.

”The 2010 national target for sanitation will require at least R689-million and with the available resources it is anticipated that the target will only be reached by 2020.”

The bulk — 72% — of O R Tambo’s revenue comes from external grants.

Only 22 % is self-generated, the rest being made up from its reserves.

According to the Department of Provincial and Local Government, 88% of households in the district live below the minimum poverty level.

O R Tambo includes the towns of Mthatha and Port St John’s and stretches up to the KwaZulu-Natal border.

Speaking to journalists after the meeting, Mbeki said it was clear OR Tambo could not carry this burden on its own.

”There’s no way that a municipality, rural municipalities like this, can have R1,7-billion just for sanitation, never mind roads and other things,” he said.

”But it emphasises the point that we need closer working together among the various spheres of government so that as water affairs at national [level] is planning what are we going to do with regards to water for the next five years, it should not be separate from the process of planning what should we be doing about water in this district.”

He said, however, that Mbizana local municipality — one of the seven in O R Tambo — offered a model for this sort of co-operation between senior officials from all three tiers of government.

Mbeki also said that in general, he thought the district was making progress and that matters raised in previous imbizo were being attended to.

”The sense I am getting is that things are being done, the district is moving forward,” he said. — Sapa

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Ben Maclennan
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