Dispute over water cuts

The Chris Hani District Municipality (CHDM) has refuted allegations of diverting water to benefit Twizza at the expense of the community of Ezibeleni, made during an EFF press briefing on Tuesday.

EFF regional chairman Xhanti Kani accused one of Komani’s biggest employers, the soft drink manufacturer, Twizza, of holding the district municipality at ransom by demanding to be excluded from scheduled water cuts, or risk the closure of the business.

Kani said the Ezibeleni community endured lengthy water outages compared with other areas due to water which was meant for them being diverted to Twizza, which required more water to the detriment of the residents.

I know that Twizza owner Ken Clark stormed into the municipality’s offices at one stage demanding water provision and threatened to close his business if this did not happen. We do not have a problem with his demands, but the municipality cannot prioritise an individual just because they have a big business, and allow the people to suffer. The EFF also does not want the business to close because many would lose jobs and would lead many households to poverty.

However, we all pay for services we do not receive, just like Twizza. In the same breath we understand that our area is drought-stricken therefore if water is rationed for the people, Twizza should also be rationed.”

Kanti said the municipality was deeply corrupted, that they did not care if the people suffered, as long as whoever was involved received their gains.

This is probably the last time we speak about this, the next time we will actively go and demand water for the residents of Ezibeleni and that will not be a good activity for the municipality which allows this to happen.”

CHDM spokeswoman Thobeka Mqamelo denied the allegations, stating the municipality would not comprise an entire community for the benefit of one company.

A public notice published in 2016 which introduced the scheduled daily water cuts due to severe drought that adversely affected Komani clearly indicated the CBD, industrial areas and hospitals were exempt from these cuts, unless we experienced excessive water shortages.

The business in question and Queendustria are not immune. When there is excessive water shortage they are also affected, meaning they also run out of water.”

Mqamelo said the municipality was doing its best to ensure that water shortages in areas under its jurisdiction did not lead to the total collapse of economic activities.

It is equally important to note that the Komani industrial park and some low-lying areas including Zone 1 and parts of Zone 2 and Oliver are fed from the primary reservoir and seldom experience water shortage. CHDM wishes to reiterate that the lives of the people of Ezibeleni will not be intentionally compromised and that whenever our reservoirs are at their lowest no one is spared as we are forced to throttle the system so that all residents, businesses, hospitals and schools benefit.”

Twizza spokesman Lisle Clarke said the allegations were “wholly untrue” as the company endured massive water and power outages like everyone else.

For the company to function successfully we require water and electricity which are basic human rights. Without these two commodities there would be massive job losses, possibly as many as 600, many of whom live in Ezibeleni. However, the question for me is why the focus is on us and not the municipality? My father initiated the Xonxa Dam project seven years ago and the dam is still not functional after several failed promises of bringing it online, which could possibly save us from the problem of the water outages we are faced with.”

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