Business community threatens to boycott rates and taxes
The business community in Mpumalanga’s Ermelo town has threatened to boycott paying municipal rates and taxes until “the collapse of service delivery” was resolved.
Ermelo’s northern part and Wesselton township have been gripped by a water crisis for the past five months after two dams – Douglas and Brummer – went dry.
The southern side of town has been spared because it receives its water from a different source.
The Ermelo Business Association (EBA) has served the Msukaligwa municipality with a notice of intent, which gives it 14 days to put its house in order or face the boycott.
The threat comes amid allegations that truck owners contracted to supply water to residents were sabotaging water infrastructure in order to retain the R530 000-a-month business with the Msukaligwa local municipality.
“Water pumps in town are damaged and pipelines are dug up during the night and that is affecting the whole town now. The allegations we received from the community is that truck owners are responsible for the damage,” said EBA spokesperson Athol Stark.
Stark said that the drivers were also allegedly charging community members R300 to deliver the free water to household tanks.
“We intend withholding payment of services because we can’t pay for something we don’t receive. Some of us are using boreholes but get charged for water at the end of the month,” he said.
Msukaligwa spokesperson Mandla Zwane confirmed that the municipality had received the EBA’s letter and was aware of the allegations about the truck drivers.
Zwane said municipal manager Thami Dlamini was dealing with the matters.
The Department of Water Affairs has meanwhile contracted Rand Water to build a pipeline that will carry water from the Jericho Dam to fill up Douglas.
This will ease the water crisis.
The main reasons cited for the water shortage were that the municipality had not planned to upgrade its infrastructure to meet the growing population and business operations.
Another reason was that mining operations upstream the Vaal River catchment were affecting the flow of water to the dams.
A silt build-up since the dams were built in the 1950s, rundown infrastructure and lack of maintenance were other reasons.