Water crisis in Makhanda a microcosm of SA's looming health catastrophe - expert

Makhanda (formerly Grahamstown), in the Eastern Cape's Makana municipality, is in the grips of the worst water crisis in its history.

Erratic water supply, failing sewage infrastructure, the toxicity of water in the region and the increase water-borne diseases are some of the troubles which have hit the area.

Newly-appointed Makhanda mayor Mzukisi Mpahlwa says the ongoing drought, coupled with striking municipal workers, compound the situation.

702's Eusebius McKaiser hosted panel of guest to discuss the current crisis in the historic town that is home to Rhodes University.

He was joined by the mayor, activist Ayanda Kota, Gift of the Givers hydrologist Dr Gideon Groenewald, water expert Dr Anthony Turton and other callers.

The mayor concedes that the situation is unacceptable and says that newly appointed top management wants to turn the situation around.

We have identified a number of boreholes that we have sunk to be able to help provide water to communities of Makhanda.

Mzukisi Mpahlwa, Makhanda Mayor

However, Dr Turton says that local governments have continuously failed in their oversight function, technical abilities and responsibility to deliver adequate basic services.

He adds that dysfunctional municipalities across the country are putting the nation on the brink of national health crisis.

What's happening in Makhanda is an example of what is happening in at least 60% of our municipalities.

Dr Anthony Turton, water researcher

The major crisis is water service provision, but specifically around sewage.

Dr Anthony Turton, water researcher

Meanwhile, Kota, the leader of the Unemployed Peoples' Movement (UPM) says the community group has filed a court bid that the municipality be collapsed.

He describes scenes of sewage flowing through the streets in the informal areas and the struggles involved in accessing fresh water.

Kota says that when water does come out of the taps, it is often contaminated and appears to be a brownish colour, containing sludge.

The water crisis has severe implications for health, hygiene and sanitation in the area, affecting poor people and the sickly the most, he adds.

Kota has slammed the mayor and says that municipal officials have not engage the community on the crisis.

We can attribute the water crisis to three things, including corruption.

Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the Unemployed Peoples' Movement

In this municipality, we live without water for for days or even weeks without any word from Makana municipality.

Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the Unemployed Peoples' Movement

They have endangered the lives of many people.

Ayanda Kota, chairperson of the Unemployed Peoples' Movement

Charity organisation Gift of the Givers has been helping with relief efforts in the small town since earlier this year.

Volunteer hydrologist Dr Gideon Groenewald says that Gift of the Givers has found some points of clean drinking water sources after drilling in the area in February.

We're not interested in the politics or governance. Our involvement is too stabilise the situation.

Dr Gideon Groenewald, Gift of the Givers hydrologist

Listen to the in-depth discussion on The Eusebius McKaiser Show:


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