15 October 2018 Read: 667
On Friday, the 5th of October one man took a stand against a broken system. Phalaborwa resident and Chair of the Rate Payers Association, George Hepburn is “gatvol”. For close on a month the town that he lives in has been without water during one of the hottest months of the year. Frequent power outages frame the crisis in darkness as students allegedly struggle to complete their homework assignments and primary school kids say they go to bed hungry.
Last year Hepburn was joined by Manie Kriel, the president of the Phalaborwa Home Owners Association and together they garnered the support of the community and staged a march to the offices of the Mayor, Pule Shayi. There they handed over a memorandum with demands which included an end to the debilitating water crisis and frequent power cuts that is bringing the town to its knees.
During this march, Mayor Shayi made promises to the community which included an effort to bring to an end the service delivery failures of his municipality. A year later and the situation repeats itself as once again Lepelle Northern Water Board throttles water supply to the resident as it awaits payment to be made by the Mopani District Municipality.
Bulletin is in possession of a document that states that Mopani have made a payment to Lepelle to the amount of R20 million on the 5th of October in an effort to force the upliftment of the water restrictions. In this letter dated 9th of October, Lepelle responded by saying that it would not lift the water restrictions as the payment did not reflect the R40 million agreed upon in a meeting between the two parties.
Lepelle Northern Water will only consider your request to uplift the water supply restriction upon receipt of an additional payment of R10 million,” the letter signed by the Lepelle CFO, S.P Valoyi, stated.
According to Hepburn the time for being patient is long gone. “We were patient last year when they said we should give them time to get rid of the debt and resolve the matter. We were patient even after that when they did not honour their agreements with us. This community has been patient since 2014 and we are now at a point where talking is not what we need.”
He says that it is high time the municipal officials realize that they work for the ratepayers and the broader community and that those are the people who now demand answers. “They have ignored almost weekly letters and enquiries. The municipality ignored our pleads and our cries and so it seems that the only thing they actually understand is when a community takes action. So that is exactly what we are going to do come Saturday the 20th of October.”
Hepburn has gathered an even larger following of the residents across the entire Ba-Phalaborwa region and has now planned a protest march to the buildings of the municipality to demand immediate action. He has also written a scathing letter to the Municipal Manager of the BPM, Maite Moakamela, wherein he demanded that she be in attendance along with every other member of the executive committee to meet the residents and address their demands.
“Enough is enough and we will no longer stand for it. These people work for us and they need to answer to us.” At the time of going print we were unable to reach the BPM Spokesperson, Jonas Mahesu for comment. We will endeavour to contact him for a follow up and clarity on the issue for our next report.