The area, just outside Pietermaritzburg, has been plagued with chronic problems due to the age of the pipes and the fact that Ashburton’s water infrastructure inherited from the previous local council was not compatible with Msunduzi’s water reticulation system.
Acting General Manager: Infrastructure Services, Brenden Sivparsad, confirmed to Maritzburg Sun that the ageing infrastructure will be replaced and that the city will be calling for bids to appoint contractors to undertake the work.
Mayor Themba Njilo also recently announced in a mayoral Imbizo that R30 million has been allocated to water infrastructure replacement in areas including Ashburton and the city’s northern suburbs which is also plagued with ageing infrastructure.
In the last month alone, the main water pipeline on Pope Ellis Drive has burst nearly a dozen times, leaving residents without water for hours on end. Msunduzi Water division has responded fairly swiftly to each fracture having to dig up ground to continually fix the leaks. However when pressure is reintroduced, the pipes break at other vulnerable spots.
A secondary problem being encountered is mud and dirt entering the system and persisting for days after each repair.
A resident from the area, Chelsea Olivier, said she was forced to spend nearly R2000 each month because of the water problem.
“It’s annoying, really, because in most cases there is either no water or if it is available it is too dirty for any use,” she said adding that the family also spent money having clothes washed at the laundromat.
Sivparsad said the only solution was the replacement of the pipes.
“I have lost count as to how many times we have had to attend to the pipe. The fact is, it is old and needs replacing completely,” said Sivparsad.
The head of the water division said one of the main problems with the pipe was that it was not compatible with the main pipes from the municipality.
“At some point, Ashburton used to have its own council and its infrastructure was different to that of Pietermaritzburg, so once it was connected to the city network, there was a variation of pressure because the pipes are not the same. That is why the Pope Ellis Drive constantly experiences such challenges,” said Sivparsad.
The tender for the replacement of the pipe is expected to be advertised in the next two weeks.
Non-spending departments to face committee
Failure to spend the R30 million budget for replacing the Pope Ellis Drive pipe is part of the bigger problem when it comes to budget allocations in Msunduzi Municipality.
Last week, Finance Committee members learnt with shock that over R100 million had been returned to treasury as business units had failed to spend grants. Last year the municipality had to return an R86 million allocation and now it has been forced to give back R126 million.
Committee member, Caiphus Ndawonde, blamed senior officials.
“When funds are taken back to treasury, it simply means that there was no planning and this does not make sense to communities when we tell them that money was not used. The management needs to take responsibility for this,” said Ndawonde.
Another committee member, Mehmood Oumar, said senior managers need to ensure that staff perform their tasks as expected.
“It sounds as if people sit on their desks and play poker; something needs to be done because you can’t be returning money when infrastructure is falling apart,” he said.
Committee members have instructed that senior officials from business units that did not spend their grants explain the reasons for not spending MIG funding.