South Coast fight for water heads to court

Residents of the lower KwaZulu-Natal South Coast are preparing to take the Ugu district municipality to court for failing to provide them with water over the past decade.

A number of towns and rural areas in the district — which stretches from Kingsburgh to Port Edward and inland beyond Harding — are without water in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Port Edward resident Heidi Sampieri, one of the residents who is co-ordinating the initiative, confirmed that they are meeting lawyers on July 1 to bring a class action against the municipality, home to about 750 000 people. 

Another resident, Amanda Liebenberg, said: “We have organised to meet with the lawyers to go ahead with the court action. People are frustrated over the failure of the municipality to do its job and want us now to go the legal route for intervention.”

The Port Edward and Banners Rest Ratepayers’ Association has previously laid complaints with the office of the public protector over the failure of Ugu to supply water and other municipal services. The situation has been exacerbated by political infighting in the municipality and the collapse of infrastructure, including reservoirs and pump stations, in various parts of the district.

Earlier this year, pump stations were allegedly sabotaged during industrial action after about 70 municipal employees were fired for participating in an unprotected strike. This brought the water supply to towns throughout the district to a halt. On June 11, the municipality passed an 8% increase in water and sanitation charges, effective from July 1, in its annual budget.

Sampieri said she has been battling with an intermittent water supply since moving to the town seven years ago. She has not had water in her home for the past three weeks.

“We have had nothing but promises from Ugu for the whole time. I pay my bills on time every month, but they make no effort to sort out the situation because we have the same problem, year after year. They filled the water tank near the library last week for the first time since December,” Sampieri said. 

“The Covid-19 situation makes things worse. People are exposed to it because they have to walk for water. There’s no water to wash, so how can people protect themselves?’’

She said she was participating in the court action because “‘we don’t have any other choice. We are being fed lies by the municipality. We don’t have water, but they are increasing our water bills. This is a major humanitarian problem.”

Ugu municipality spokesperson Simon April had not responded by the time of publication.

Subscribe to the M&G

These are unprecedented times, and the role of media to tell and record the story of South Africa as it develops is more important than ever.

The Mail & Guardian is a proud news publisher with roots stretching back 35 years, and we’ve survived right from day one thanks to the support of readers who value fiercely independent journalism that is beholden to no-one. To help us continue for another 35 future years with the same proud values, please consider taking out a subscription.

Paddy Harper
Paddy Harper

Related stories


Subscribers only

Poachers in prisons tell their stories

Interviews with offenders provide insight into the structure of illegal wildlife trade networks

Covid-overflow hospital in ruins as SIU investigates

A high-level probe has begun into hundreds of millions of rand spent by the Gauteng health department to refurbish a hospital that is now seven months behind schedule – and lying empty

More top stories

The politics of the Zuma-Zondo showdown

Any move made by the Zondo commission head or by former president Jacob Zuma must be calculated, because one mistake from either side could lead to a political fallout

Museveni declared winner of disputed Uganda election

Security personnel out in force as longtime president wins sixth term and main challenger Bobi Wine alleges rigging.

Pay-TV inquiry probes the Multichoice monopoly

Africa’s largest subscription television operator says it is under threat amid the emerging popularity of global platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime

​No apology or comfort as another Marikana mother dies without...

Nomawethu Ma’Bhengu Sompeta, whose funeral will be held this weekend, was unequivocal in calling out the government for its response to the Marikana massacre

press releases

Loading latest Press Releases…